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Partial win for local campaign group but too late to save pensioners £63 million

Partial win for local campaign group but too late to save pensioners £63 million

The campaign group Divest Dyfed Dadfusoddi welcomed news that Dyfed Pension Fund has made commitments to move part of its fund to fossil fuel free investments.

However, it has come too late to save a loss of £63 million in value of assets owned by pension holders.

In October 2019 councillors in Carmarthenshire unanimously passed a motion calling on the Fund to withdraw £141 million from fossil fuel companies and invest instead in local renewable energy. This was followed by a similar motion by Ceredigion County Council in January 2020.

The fund, which is managed by officials from Carmarthenshire County Council, on behalf of employees of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire Council Councils, as well as approximately fifty other local organisations, was given two years to complete the divestment.

Information released under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed that the fund continues to have significant holdings in a range of fossil fuels that have a hugely damaging effect on all life on our planet. Amongst these investments are over £23 million in Shell and £12 million in BP.

At first glance it appeared that the fund managers had sold most of these fossil fuel assets. On closer inspection however it was apparent  that the value of the shares had simply fallen by over 60%. No divestment had taken place. The fund has been accused not only of ignoring the environmental crisis but also disregarding the growing consensus that investments in oil, gas, coal and fracking are simply a bad investment.

At a meeting in September 2020, the Pension Fund Committee resolved to take no action to reduce their fossil fuel holdings, and to not inform councillors of their decision.

Thanks to the campaign efforts of Divest Dyfed, this decision has been overturned, and at the latest committee meeting this month, the fund agreed to move 24% of its share holdings into “reduced fossil fuel free” funds, aiming to reduce its carbon emissions by 16%.

Greg Parker of Ynni Sir Gâr said, “The Dyfed Pension Fund have ignored the Council’s motion to re-invest the funds in local renewable energy. If the fund had instead invested this into local renewable energy at the time they were asked by Carmarthenshire County Council, the fund would have a stable investment, that would have lost no value. Ironically the Swedish local government pension fund recently invested £355m in Wales offshore wind farms. Sweden sees the financial and environmental value of Wales’ renewable energy, but our own pension fund prefers to invest in fossil fuels and even £17 million in tobacco.”

An official written reply from Carmarthenshire County Council on behalf of all Councillors and Senior Officers said “We know there are a range of views on climate change, for example, some of us will want to make change faster than others, some will have more questions than others and there will be many different views about how to proceed. We respect differences of opinion and are aiming to be as inclusive as possible. We are all on a journey, we want to do the best we can do on climate change, within our remit. The pension committee’s first legal duty is to the members of its scheme which brings its own constraints. The committee is one small player and it also has other issues it needs to take into account. (e.g. social and governance issues)”

Carmarthen Solicitor, Mike Reed, of Divest Dyfed replied “The Climate Emergency is not a matter of opinion. There has been clear evidence of man-made climate change for the last 30 years and almost no action has been taken. Our carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase despite world leaders speaking out saying they are doing things. We must get down to net carbon zero within 7 years to prevent tipping points in the climate causing existential disaster to most species on the planet including ourselves. Global pension funds are estimated to be worth £37 trillion; the Dyfed Pension Fund represents £2.4 billion of this. Imagine what could be achieved if a percentage of all pension funds were invested in green energy, local projects and businesses. We could be generating enough energy to renewably power the planet and generate a good income for pensioners.

Vicky Moller of Divest Dyfed said, “This shows how important it is for individuals to stand up and speak out for what is right. Do not assume that people in positions of power will do what is right without pressure from ordinary people. Most of us have or will have pensions, it is our money that is being invested, let’s make sure it is invested in ways that will not destroy humanities’ future. We are pleased that moves towards divestment have been started and hope that the full 100% divestment will be completed within the 2-year deadline of this September.”

“This is your pension money – make it matter. Join our facebook page Divest Dyfed Dadfusoddi or contact us to make this happen.

Contact: Jane Mansfield.


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