Greater Manchester councils join call for pension fund fossil fuel divestment

Six Greater Manchester councils have written to the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF), urging it to move decisively away from its current investments in fossil fuels.  

Executive members of Manchester, Salford, Rochdale, Stockport, Bury and Wigan councils have all signed the letter, which calls for GMPF to take action to match the region’s existing target of becoming zero-carbon by 2038.

The letter, organised by Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for the Environment, Councillor Angeliki Stogia, notes that other pension funds nationally and internationally are already divesting from fossil fuel companies and appeals for GMPF to up their ambition of becoming zero carbon by 2050, bringing it into line with the city region's zero-carbon target of 2038.

Manchester and Salford City Councils have previously been informed that the fund is pursuing a strategy of acting as an “ethical investor”, encouraging fossil fuel companies to move towards low-carbon solutions, rather than divesting.  

The letter welcomes GMPF’s plans for £2.5bn of its assets to be used to pursue a low-carbon strategy, but also notes that the South Yorkshire Pension Fund will be fossil fuel-free by 2030, while other councils such as Clwyd, Southwark, Islington, Lambeth and Waltham Forest, have already committed to fully divesting from fossil fuels.

In a separate letter, Cllr Stogia has also asked the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to back the councils’ campaign for the pension fund to become net zero carbon by 2038 or earlier as part of his Mayoral election manifesto.

Councillor Angeliki Stogia said: “Councils across Greater Manchester are working hard to help the region become zero carbon by 2038 and have declared climate emergencies, making it clear that the situation requires immediate action and our full commitment to securing a cleaner, greener and more socially just future.

“The tide is turning towards renewable energy sources and continued investment in oil, coal and gas is only delaying the inevitable.  We want Greater Manchester Pension Fund to make a bold statement which will help create the world we want to see for the generations to come.  

"We stand ready to work with them to see what can be done and are urging ambition and action for a greener future.”

Councillor Mike McCusker, Executive Support Member for Planning, Housing and Sustainable Development, said: “Salford City Council declared a climate emergency because we believe action is needed to try to deal with climate change before it has a significant negative impact on all our lives. Our Climate Action Board is requesting that the Greater Manchester Pension Fund aligns its target for just transfer away from fossil fuels to the GM target of 2038 and takes the necessary steps now to meet that challenge.  We all need to do what we can to help not harm the world we live in.”

Councillor Sara Rowbotham, deputy leader and cabinet member for climate change and sustainability at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “I appreciate it’s a balancing act for fund managers, fully protecting people’s pensions while helping them continue to grow and mature, but I’m equally interested in actively working with them to identify and overcome any obstacles in place which will mean they move toward disinvesting from fossil fuels.”

Councillor Joanne Marshall, Lead Member for Greener Wigan, said: “We are standing up for future generations by calling for the pension fund to divest from fossil fuel companies. Investment in these industries contributes serious harm to our environment and we have a duty to our residents to ensure a cleaner, greener and healthier borough for future generations.

“In July 2019, we declared a climate emergency and our commitment to that runs through everything we do, including stopping public resources being used to invest in fossil fuels. Instead, they should be put towards more sustainable renewable energy sources.

“Councils across Greater Manchester, including Wigan, have declared plans to be zero-carbon by 2038 and we hope the Greater Manchester Pension Fund will stand with us and help create a greener future for everyone."

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