Islington Council staff lobby Islington Council to stop investing pensions in fossil fuels

Islington Council staff, as well as members of the public, are trying to make the town hall divest i

Islington Council staff, as well as members of the public, are trying to make the town hall divest its pension fund from fossil fuel companies. Picture: Fossil Free Islington - Credit: Archant

A group of Islington Council staff have ordered their employers to “stop funding climate change”.

The town hall's pension scheme partners currently have about £48million invested in oil giants Shell and BP.

The council has already achieved a 45 per cent reduction. But after a recent meeting called by Fossil Free Islington, 35 people - largely consisting of council staff - have signed an open letter saying this isn't enough. They called for Islington to divest its pension fund of fossil fuel investments.

Michael Johnson, who works for the council as a tree inspector, is one of them. He told the Gazette: "Islington is already moving in the right direction. But they are being a bit shy. It's like they are lacking in confidence. They would rather go about it quietly than come out and say they are doing this radical thing.

"Now our staff, and others, are getting involved, hopefully the council will listen."

Cllr Richard Greening, chair of the town hall pensions sub-committee, this week said the council has no plans to divest because the council wants to lobby companies from within.

But Michael disagrees with this policy: "What the council tries to do, day to day, is reduce carbon emissions, and yet it's investing in things which undermine that. It's kind of backward. Pensions are supposed to be a long-term investment, after all.

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"We have had massive unprecedented storms in this country, let alone the Philippines and United States. There are record temperatures in India. It's terrifying.

"I feel we have to do something now, as local and national government isn't doing enough. People-powered movements are necessary."

In his statement, Cllr Greening explained: "I share concern about the behaviour of companies whose products are contributing to climate change.

"Islington Pension Fund is reviewing the carbon risk of all its investments, and has partially disinvested in companies with a high carbon footprint, achieving a 45pc reduction in the carbon footprint of our shares.

"We believe engagement with fossil fuel companies is important because we want them to change their allocation of capital towards renewable energy. We're not convinced divestment on its own will stop climate change, as it risks leaving fossil fuel companies to be run by climate change deniers.

"We are moving to low carbon investments, but plan to keep some fossil fuel investments so the fund can use shareholder rights to influence companies directly."