#showthelove “Clean up your act”, South Yorkshire Pension Authority

Sheffield Climate Alliance campaigners donned aprons and overalls to encourage South Yorkshire Pension Authority to ‘clean up its act’ today, Friday 12 February. Failure to do so, we believe, could mean Sheffield City Council tax payers footing the bill for a multi-million pound shortfall.

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The 2015 Paris Treaty on Climate Change has committed the world to staying within 2 degrees of pre-industrial temperatures and ideally to 1.5 degrees. To do this, we need to shift from our reliance on fossil fuels to low carbon energy very quickly.

South Yorkshire Pension Authority manages the £6.2 billion South Yorkshire Pension Fund (SYPF) on behalf of over 240 employers including Sheffield City Council. The Fund has £24m invested in bhpBilliton, a company with the sixth largest coal reserves in the world. Over £200m is invested in fossil fuel companies in total.

Kate Stott, of Sheffield Climate Alliance says “So far the Pension Authority believes its policy of engagement with fossil fuel companies is the best approach1 to moving from the high carbon era we live in, but time is running out. That is why the University of Sheffield is committed to selling its shares in fossil fuel companies by October 2016. It recognises the “overwhelming evidence of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change”.”

“Like all investment bubbles, this one is going to burst and, if no action is taken soon, it will leave the Pension Fund with “stranded assets” – assets which are worth nothing. We already know of independent financial advisers who are telling clients that in the last month investors are selling fossil fuel company shares because of the low oil price. Apparently they won’t buy them again as they see low carbon investments as the future.”

Employers, such as Sheffield City Council whose employees’ pensions are managed by the SYPF , have a duty to keep the Fund solvent so pensions can continue to be paid.

Sean Ashton, a Senior Analyst at Sheffield City Council who has a Council pension says “Council tax payers should not suffer tax rises as the result of the Pension Fund managers taking overlong in reacting to climate change. The Bank of England2, the World Bank3 and the OECD4 all recognise we need to move to a low carbon future and alternative investments are available. Time is running out. ”

What can you do? 

Iif you’re a member of the Local Government Pension Scheme and you want your pension out of fossil fuels and in a more ethical sustainable investment you can sign our petition on 350.org at http://bit.ly/SYPADivest.

If you’re concerned about paying increased council tax to cover a potential multi-million pound deficit due to stranded assets you can:

At Town Hall, Sheffield City Council, Pinstone Street, Sheffield S1 2HH

Footnotes

  1. See letter from John Hattersley to Sheffield Climate Alliance of January 2016 http://www.sheffieldclimatealliance.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/SYPAPetitionReplyDec15-1.pdf (in response to SCA’s petition delivered in Dec 2015 https://campaigns.350.org/petitions/sign-up-to-get-south-yorkshire-pension-fund-to-divest-from-fossil-fuels)
  2. Financial Times, 29 Sept 2015 “Mark Carney warns investors face ‘huge’ climate change losses http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/622de3da-66e6-11e5-97d0-1456a776a4f5.html#axzz3zxcudwPs
  3. The World Bank, UN Climate Leadership Summit, September 23, 2014, United Nations, New York http://www.worldbank.org/en/events/2014/09/08/un-climate-summit
  4. The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, Climate Change http://www.oecd.org/env/cc/