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Transition Chesterfield, together with 20 other groups all over Derbyshire, have a Divest Derbyshire campaign to get the Derbyshire Pension Fund to dis-invest (divest) from fossil fuels. The Pension Fund has around £260 million invested in fossil fuel companies, including £183 million in companies with major fracking operations. A Derbyshire Times report on their fracking investments can be found here.

Latest news: See the Response from Derbyshire County Council candidates to our email asking them to support a motion to divest the Derbyshire Pension Fund from fossil fuels.

In Feburary Platform and Friends of the Earth released a report Divesting to protect our pensions and the planet, which showed that Derbyshire Pension Fund held £147 Million of investments in fossil fuel companies in the 2019/20 financial year, while across the UK, councils held £9.9 billion of fossil fuel investments. This useful tool gives a breakdown of fossil fuel investments by local councils.

At their February 2021 meetings Bolsover District Council and High Peak Borough Council have both voted to support motions in favour of divestment. Well done to all Councillors who voted in favour! In January 2021 we wrote to all Derbyshire County Councillors (and copied to all borough and district councillors in Derbyshire) asking if they would support a motion calling on the Derbyshire Pension Fund to fully divest from all fossil fuels and to reinvest in more environmentally and socially beneficial alternatives by 2024. We will publish the responses in March.

In November 2020 Campaigners from across the West and East Midlands submitted public questions to a meeting of Central LGPS, the investment pooling company jointly owned by Derbyshire County Council and seven other Councils. Click here for the  LGPS response to questions.  There were some very concerning points in some of their statements and we hope to submit more questions at the next meeting!

The Derbyshire Pension Fund met in November and agreed their draft Climate Strategy despite the fact that 40 out of the 49 responses had recommended divestment. The Divest Derbyshire response can be found here.  Although we welcome the aims of the Climate Strategy to reduce its exposure to fossil fuels slightly, and invest more in low carbon investments, we don’t think it goes far enough. The high risks of climate change demand much more urgent action and faster timescales. We have written to the Chair of the Pension Fund asking him to honour his commitment from 2017 to meet with us, and requested representation at the next meeting in Jan 2021.

To understand more about the role of the finance sector in in tackling climate change watch this powerful, free to view, new film Our Planet: Too Big to Fail.

Results of a Derbyshire Pension Fund members survey reveals that two-thirds are concerned about investments in fossil fuel companies. In July 2020 Chesterfield Borough Council unanimously supported a motion calling on Derbyshire Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels and engage more with fund members and employers. Thanks to all the Councillors who supported  it. The final accepted motion and speeches can be found here.  In May 2020 we sent all councillors in Derbyshire (County, Borough and District) a joint letter from Divest Derbyshire and the Derbyshire Pensioners Action Group calling for divestment and greater transparency. The response from Cllr Perkins (28/05/20) and our rebuttal to Cllr Perkins (03/06/20)  can be found here. We sent the Pensions and Investment Committee an updated briefing on the reasons for divestment in February 2020.

In December 2018 we asked a public question about divestment and received a detailed response at a full meeting of Derbyshire County Council. In September 2018 we submitted comments on the Derbyshire Pension Fund Investment Strategy, calling for stocks to be excluded where there is evidence there are long term financial risks. In September 2018 the Divest Fracking campaign revealed that UK Councils are investing millions in the global fracking industry. In April 2018 Toby Perkins MP signed the Divest Parliament pledge. In March 2018 Derby City Councillors voted overwhelmingly for a motion calling on the Derbyshire Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels. In August 2017 we made a presentation to the Derbyshire Pensions Committee. In March 2017 we handed in over 1,000 signatures to the Chair of the Pensions and Investments Committee responsible for managing the fund, calling on them to dis-invest from existing investments in fossil fuels within 5 years.

What you can do: Please email your local Councillor with this easy tool to ask them to support the campaign to divest our council funds. Instead let’s invest in green jobs and technologies in Derbyshire.

Our main objective is to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels. However there are strong financial reasons for divesting from fossil fuels:

Fossil fuels are an investment risk – fossil fuel companies risk losing $33 trillion in revenue over the next 25 years as climate change forces companies to leave oil, natural gas and coal in the ground. Click here for a video featuring the Chair of Newton Investment Management explaining why fossil fuels are a bad investment.

The Pension Fund Committee must consider climate risk – as long term investors the Committee must examine the risks properly. The Pensions Regulator has pointed out that climate change could be “financially significant, both over the short and longer term”. Pension Trustees who fail to consider climate risk could be exposing themselves to legal challenge in the future.

Engagement is not working – the Pension Fund Committee has stated its position is one of engagement rather than divestment. We believe that while in some instances engagement can be very helpful, it is far less effective when what you are objecting to is part of a company’s core business. Even within the most “progressive” fossil fuel companies, oil and gas will continue to be the main part of their core business well beyond the point necessary to meet our carbon targets.

Alternative investments can provide value – while the Committee needs to provide good returns to finance the pension scheme, there are many other alternative investments that can provide value and which are environmentally and socially beneficial.

A growing number of local government pension schemes have decided to divest from fossil fuels including: The Environment Agency Pension Fund; South Yorkshire Pension Fund; Haringey Pension Fund; Waltham Forest Pension Fund; Southwark Pension Fund; Hackney Pension Fund. Institutions across the world are divesting including churches and universities. Ireland will be the first country to divest from fossil fuels. In November 2017 the world’s large sovereign wealth fund announced it was divesting from oil and gas to avoid the fund’s value being hit by a permanent fall in the oil price.

Click here to see our updated 2020 Divestment briefing, a Divest Derbyshire Briefing (2016) and Cover letter for petition (2017), and Friends of the Earth resources on why local government pension funds should divest from fossil fuels.

If you would like to help with the campaign or for more information please contact Lisa Hopkinson at divest@transitionchesterfield.org.uk

The Divest Derbyshire campaign is supported by the following organisations (in alphabetical order:
Amber Valley Against Fracking,
Bolsover Against Fracking
Chesterfield and District TUC,
Chesterfield Climate Alliance,
Clay Cross Against Fracking,
Creswell Against Fracking,
Derby Climate Coalition,
Eckington Against Fracking,
Glossopdale Transition Initiative,
Medact East Midlands
Melbourne Area Transition,
Sustainable Edale,
Sustainable Hayfield,
Transition Belper,
Transition Buxton,
Transition Chesterfield,
Transition Hope Valley,
Transition Matlock,
Transition New Mills.
Transition Wirksworth;
University of Derby Students’ Union