Hackney Council's investment in dirty energy grows - despite pledge to reduce fossil fuel cash in pension fund
PUBLISHED: 17:49 29 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:17 30 November 2017
Hackney Council now invests a whopping £67.7million of its pension fund in dirty energy - an increase of 61 per cent in two years.
That’s despite the fact it promised to halve the fund’s environmental footprint in January.
Two years ago it was revealed the council had £42m invested in fossil fuel companies through its £1.2bn pension fund.
Since then environmental activists have been putting pressure on the council to take its money out of oil, gas and coal companies.
Campaign group Divest Hackney says the controversial investments contribute to climate change and represent an “unacceptable financial risk to pension-holders”.
In January the council said it would cut future CO2 emissions produced as a result of its investments by 50 per cent within six years – plans hailed as “too little too late” by campaigners.
But since that time investments have actually risen. The figures initially had to be estimated by Fossil Free UK based on 2015/16 accounting data, because the council had taken eight months, and counting, to respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests as to the true amount. Today, though, the council told the Gazette the estimated figures were “very close to the current true figure”.
Divest Hackney has demanded an internal review as to why the council had failed to provide the true figures seven months after it was legally obliged to respond to an FOI request. A spokesman for the council said it had been due to an “administrative error”. “We now plan to publish online an annual breakdown of investments with the pension fund’s report and accounts, with the 2016/17 accounts due to be published by December 2017,” she said.
Camilla Zerr from Divest Hackney said: “Divesting 100pc is the only commitment that matches the scale of the issue. And it needs to be done now – not in six years. The minimal risk of lower returns caused by removing investments from fossil fuels are in no way comparable to the huge and extensive risks associated with the disastrous impacts of climate breakdown on human livelihoods and the environment, impacts which we are seeing right now.”
Cllr Robert Chapman, chair of the pensions committee, said: “We have to ensure that the pension fund receives the best returns possible, and also comply with the various legal duties associated with managing a large pension fund.”
But he reaffirmed the council’s commitment to its divestment promise, calling it “ambitious”.
“We must ensure that any changes to how the Hackney pension fund is managed are taken extremely carefully,” he added. “Our first responsibility is towards those whose pensions we manage as well as other stakeholders, which include local council taxpayers.”
The council said the increase of 61pc was mainly due to its existing investments getting more valuable, rather than new ones being made. And it called the jump in value a “shorter-term movement” rather than a long-term trend.