Investing in the Future

It’s very rare for the Green Group to be guaranteed time for a Full Council debate on any issue. We take a turn a couple of times a year, and the choice of topic is of course a much contested one among the group. I was therefore delighted to be supported when I advocated choosing the future shape of our city’s economy as influenced by the local government pension fund.

Our economy can help create our future, and our savings can stimulate the economy. That’s why I developed a motion for the council to influence the investments of the Avon Pension Fund, specifically to get funds shifted into positive, future sectors and away from the damaging fossil fuels that are undermining out climate.

The debate – called the Golden Motion, due to it being guaranteed time for discussion by all 4 party groups, was recorded and this is what I said: http://bit.ly/1Vd5d5H .

 

The Motion, as presented to Full Council:

The Motion:

  1. Cllr Fodor (Green group) to move:

Making Avon Pension Fund a fossil-free fund

 

This council notes:

  1. That there is increasing recognition that fossil fuel assets and investments are likely

to become ‘stranded assets’ with 75% having to be kept in the ground to prevent

runaway climate change (ref1).

  1. Many international experts and investors are warning of the risks of fossil fuel

investments, and at the same time the increasing attractiveness of renewable

energy technologies, with wind power being the cheapest form of onshore

generation now (ref2). Other funds and Universities are increasingly divesting

(ref3).

  1. The city and its sub region are an area of international expertise in renewable

energy technologies. Locally we are also an area with a very strong track record of

community sustainable energy initiatives, typified by the work of Bristol Energy

Network members, the Bristol Community Strategy for Energy, and the projects

supported by Bristol 2015.

  1. Bristol Unison branch passed a motion in July for the LGPS to divest from fossil

fuels and then wrote to the chair of the Avon pension fund committee conveying that

decision in July. Pension fund boards have now been established and UNISON has

a seat on the board.

 

This council recognises that:

  1. The past industrial and economic base of the Bristol and Avon area was based on

coal and fossil fuels

  1. The future industrial and economic base of Bristol and surrounding authorities will

be based on energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

  1. The interests of our pensioners will increasingly be served by forward-looking

investments in renewable energy technologies and areas like energy storage and

low carbon solutions, including energy efficiency.

  1. With many other pension funds divesting and switching to renewables it is time for

Avon Pension Fund to follow suit. The experience of the award winning Environment

Agency PF (a local authority scheme) and other public sector funds are positive

lessons we can draw on (ref4) (ref 5).

 

This council therefore resolves:

  1. To ask the Mayor to write to the Avon Pension Fund calling for it to draw up a

strategy to reduce to zero its investments in fossil fuels over the next 5 years,

starting with plans to diversify into renewables, energy efficiency and storage

technologies.

  1. To work with other local authorities served by the Avon Pension Fund to work

together on divestment and diversification.

  1. To work with trades union representatives and the workforce to involve them in

plans for divestment and diversification.

 

References
1 Leading experts, including Sir Nicholas Stern, have warned that if we are to stay below a

2°C increase in global temperatures, approximately 75% of the current fossil fuel reserves

have to stay in the ground

Ref 2 At the same time reports from UBS and CitiBank last year highlight that the price of

producing renewable energy is falling so fast, that it is set to compete at market rates with

energy produced from fossil fuels by 2020. In fact onshore wind energy has become cheaper

than energy from any other source in the UK (research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance).

Within the next 5 years therefore, prudent investors need to consider both the stability of

investments in fossil fuels, and the opportunities offered by the rapid growth in renewable

energy. As costs fall for renewable energy, investment returns have steadily improved over the

last few years and are expected to achieve grid parity while many fuel reserves likely to

become unexploitable ‘stranded assets’. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England

recently highlighted that “financing the decarbonisation of our economy” was a major

opportunity for long-term investors.

Ref 3 Other major funds include Bloomberg, the Rockerfeller Foundation, and the Council of

Churches.

Ref 4 Other council (LA) pension funds and public sector funds that have made divestment

commitments include: the Swedish city of Uppsala, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund,

Lund University, SOAS University, and Oxford University. As well as Avon PF, there are

campaigns for divestment in many local authority pension funds, including Oxfordshire,

Greater Manchester, Southwark, Merseyside, West Midlands, Somerset, Cambridge, West

Yorkshire, and Norfolk.

Local government funds have increasingly sought ethical and useful investments such as

affordable housing (Greater Manchester PF); community solar (Lancashire County PF);

community renewables (Strathclyde PF); and Croydon Council’s entire pension fund is in

ethical investments now.

Ref 5: The EAPF (Environment Agency), which is also a Local Authority PF due to the legacy

of waste regulation authorities’ ex staff, has won awards for its growing ethical segment and

shows it can work well, being an LAPF finalist award this year for responsible investment.

Climate risk is seen as an opportunity for the fund. 25% of the fund is due to be in sustainable

and green economy by this year (still to be reported; was 24 last year).It is moving 90% out of

coal stocks and 50% out of oil and gas. It has performed above benchmarks.

 

 

 

 

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