Bedford Borough Council urged to move pension fund out of fossil fuel firms

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Pound coins and money

Bedford Borough Council has been asked to join Luton Borough Council and urge the Bedfordshire Pension Fund to move its holdings away from fossil fuel firms.

Presenting an urgent resolution on the issue at Luton Borough Council’s full council meeting on Tuesday night (16 November), Cllr Aslam Khan (Labour, Lewsey) said: “This is a very important motion for us about our environment and human life…

“Even today oil, coal and gas provide about 80 per cent of our energy needs and we’re paying the price for it.”

Cllr Khan told the meeting that global banks continue to finance the fossil fuels industry and are “providing it with more money than ever before”.

He said, “we have a responsibility to make a change and speed up that journey to alternative sources of energy.”

The meeting was told that renewable energy is cleaner, greener and safer and will create more jobs. With Cllr Khan adding, “it can potentially be even more profitable.

The Labour Party has called for an end to all investment in fossil fuel projects.

They recently asked the government to immediately pause fossil fuel investment overseas, and engage with companies to commit to keeping the vast majority of their oil, gas and coal stocks in the ground.

“We need to show leadership on the climate change emergency and ensure our pension funds aren’t funding climate disaster,” added Cllr Khan.

“Young people will be grateful”

While Luton Borough Council has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2040, they’re now asking for cross-party support for all councils to commit to calling on the Bedfordshire Pension Fund to disinvest from fossil fuels.

Read: Monthly column: Climate Emergency – we need actions not words

The proposal will see an immediate cessation in any investment in the 200 trading fossil fuel companies.

The fund would then actively invest in firms that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and minimise and mitigate climate risk.

It will undertake an assessment of its investment portfolio with a view to disinvest in institutions which are coal, oil and gas companies by 2023.

Cllr David Franks (Liberal Democrat, Barnfield) agreed with the proposal, “I’m pleased to have been involved in the decision to bring this resolution to council and was happy to agree to the council leader’s decision that I second it.

“There’s one reassurance needed that once the resolution has been passed it will be forwarded to the administrators of the pension scheme, and to the leader of Central Bedfordshire Council and the Mayor of Bedford with a request they pass something similar.

“We all understand why it’s so important to move to using more environmentally friendly sources of energy.

Cllr Umme Ali (Labour, High Town) added: “As a young person I was really happy to see this resolution proposed.

“I know we all need to do a little more to fight climate change individually and collectively.

“My peers and young people around Luton will be grateful if we vote for this. I hope our neighbouring councils can also follow this example.”

£40 million invested in fossil fuels

The Bedfordshire Pension Fund administers the pensions of employees of all three councils in the county and others who may be participating in the scheme.

In its financial report at the end of 2020, fund managers said it has 72,105 members and is worth £2,209 million.

At Luton Borough Council’s full council meeting, it was stated that £40 million is currently invested in fossil fuels.

Central Bedfordshire Council has also been asked to support the request to move funds away from fossil fuel firms.

At the time of publication, Bedford Borough Council had not commented on the request.

by Euan Duncan Local Democracy Reporter
and Bedford Independent’s Paul Hutchinson

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