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£42m channelled into dirty energy by Hackney Council

PUBLISHED: 08:00 26 March 2015 | UPDATED: 08:00 26 March 2015

A worker uses a high pressure hose to blast the oiled rocks after the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez.

A worker uses a high pressure hose to blast the oiled rocks after the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez.

LANDOV/Press Association Images

Hackney Council has been accused of “wringing its hands” over where to invest its pension funds, after it emerged over £42m is channelled into dirty energy.

Hackney Council has been accused of “wringing its hands” over where to invest its pension funds, after it emerged more than £42m is channelled into dirty energy.

The figures, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, show investments of £42,438,296 in 22 different oil, coal and gas companies, including £2,246,655 in Exxon Mobil – the multinational linked to the 1989 Exxon Valdez environmental disaster, which saw 38 million gallons of crude oil spill into the remote Alaskan sea.

The coastal ecosystem there is now permanently damaged, and 25 years on some wildlife populations and habitats are listed as “not recovering”, including a pod of orcas which lost 15 of its 22 members after the spill and has not produced a calf since.

Charlotte George, Green parliamentary candidate for Hackney South and Shoreditch is shocked and disappointed by the figures.

She said: “Hackney council talk up their green credentials a lot, I genuinely absolutely want to support them when they recycle – but this amounts to short term thinking. All the recycling in the world is not going to make much difference if we get the effects of catastrophic climate change with floods, storms and droughts.

“It’s a key issue when Hackney residents’ money is being used to prop up fossil fuel - we can’t possibly burn all the fossil fuels without screwing ourselves up.”

Former Green councillor Mischa Borris said that although the council has a duty to maximise returns on its pension fund, they are also allowed take into account the social benefits of any particular investment.

She said: “Virtually every politician and scientist along with lots of charities and NGOs, including the National Trust which is not known for its radicalism, accept climate change as a reality.

“Rather than wringing its hands the council should be actively seeking ways to switch investments.”

A fast-growing global movement launched by campaign group 350.org is putting pressure on institutions around the world to remove their investments from fossil fuels, and 10,000 campaigners signed a petition this week calling on Dutch pension fund ABP to divest.

A spokesman for the council said it had a legal duty to optimise returns for pension funds and uses external fund managers to manage its investments. “The pensions committee will continue to review their approach to ethical investing to look at ways in which they can influence companies that we are either directly or indirectly invested in through the use of shareholder voting,” he added.

“The council is committed to reducing the harmful effects of pollutants in our atmosphere by, for example, changing the way parking permits are priced from engine size to emissions based, and by placing a charge on Hackney’s diesel vehicles.”

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