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Fury over Tower Hamlets Council pension fund doubling investment in fossil fuel in a year

PUBLISHED: 14:52 10 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:18 14 November 2017

Tower Hamlets Council's pension fund's '£92m in fossil fuel' claim. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets Council's pension fund's '£92m in fossil fuel' claim. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The pension fund for Tower Hamlets Council staff has £92 million invested in fossil fuel industries — twice what it was a year ago, according to new figures.

Call forTown Hall  pensdion fund to switch away from fossil fuels. Picture: Mike Brooke Call forTown Hall pensdion fund to switch away from fossil fuels. Picture: Mike Brooke

Environment campaigners from Tower Hamlets Divest are calling on the authority to switch investments to low-emission green industries instead.

The investment holdings in oil and gas are revealed from inquiries made by the TUC-backed Divest campaign coinciding with UN global climate talks which the government is attending.

“It’s shocking to see our council still investing in a financially-risky and morally-bankrupt industry,” campaigner Kate Hand said.

“The government agreed in the Paris Treaty two years ago to tackle climate change.

Council planning to reduce pension fund's fossil fuel investment. Picture: Mike Brooke Council planning to reduce pension fund's fossil fuel investment. Picture: Mike Brooke

“Other London boroughs are committing to divest their pension funds, but Tower Hamlets continues to drag its feet.”

Local authorities are ploughing billions into oil companies that have spent “decades fuelling the global warming crisis”, campaigners claim. The impact of climate change is hurricanes devastating the Caribbean, wildfires in southern Europe and flooding and drought across the world, they point out.

The council’s ‘fossil fuel’ holdings has nearly doubled from the £58 million at end of 2016, despite the pensions committee commissioning a carbon analysis of its investment portfolio to move a portion to a low-carbon tracker fund.

The exposure is largely through investments in portfolios which include companies responsible for carbon emissions, the council acknowledged when contacted by the East London Advertiser.

A council spokesman said: “The pension fund has looked into its investment strategy to understand the current exposure to carbon emissions. It now plans changing the policy by the first quarter of 2018.”

The move means reducing the pension fund’s exposure to fossil fuel investments from 60 to 50 per cent by switching to multi-asset funds with lower exposure to carbon-intensive assets.

The remaining 50 per cent of its equity assets include 15pc to be invested in a ‘low carbon’ strategy. This aims to reduce the exposure of its investment portfolio by around 70pc, while still expecting dividends in line with the stock market in the long term.

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