Devon County Council is among the UK’s top local authority fossil fuel investors despite the council declaring a climate emergency nearly two years ago and committing to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
A report examining local authority staff pension fund investments has found that the Devon Local Government Pension Scheme, which is managed by Devon County Council, invests £157 million of its £4 billion fund in fossil fuel companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP, BHP, Anglo American and ExxonMobil.
The fund currently has more than 39,000 actively contributing members, employed by 214 employers from unitary, district, town and parish councils, education establishments and other bodies in the region. Many of these organisations have also declared climate emergencies, including Exeter City Council.
The report, published by campaign groups Platform and Friend of the Earth, found nearly £10 billion worth of investments in oil and gas companies in local government pension funds in the last financial year. The Devon fund is among the worst offenders, with nearly 4% of its money invested this way.
BP, Shell and BHP account for around 40% of all investments in fossil fuels by UK local council pension funds. About two thirds of the funds are invested in oil and gas and about a third in coal.
Rianna Gargiulo, a divestment campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Declaring a climate emergency may garner good headlines, but too often it seems to stop there. Councils can’t make a bold claim about saving the planet while continuing to invest in fossil fuels.
“Local authorities have the power and duty to ensure local workers not only have a pension for their retirement, but also a future worth retiring into.”
Robert Noyes, a campaigner at Platform and co-author of the report, said: “Local councils can and should be using their pension funds to support local investment priorities.
“Instead of making risky bets on fossil fuels, let’s channel the wealth in our pensions to local communities and build a better world beyond the pandemic.”
So far Southwark, Islington, Lambeth, Waltham Forest and Cardiff councils, as well as the Environment Agency, have committed to divest fully away from fossil fuels.