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'Divest now': Environmental campaigners renew call on Newham Council to stop investing in fossil fuel firms

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 January 2020

Campaigners want Newham Council to stop investing in oil, gas and coal companies. Picture: Jon King

Campaigners want Newham Council to stop investing in oil, gas and coal companies. Picture: Jon King

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Environmental campaigners have urged the council to turbo charge efforts to end its investments in fossil fuel firms.

Campaigners wait to put their questions to councillors. Picture: Jon KingCampaigners wait to put their questions to councillors. Picture: Jon King

Members of Fossil Free Newham held placards reading "Don't let your assets go up in smoke" and "Divest now" ahead of a council meeting at Old Town Hall, Stratford on Monday, January 20.

Once inside, councillors faced a barrage of questions about how they planned to protect Newham's pension fund from the risk shares in oil, coal and gas companies could become "worthless".

Chris Kershaw said: "Given the governor of the Bank of England has added his voice to those warning investments in fossil fuels risk becoming worthless, what is Newham's plan to ensure it pension fund is protected?"

Ann Basu asked how Newham planned to reduce any "damage" to pension funds caused by fossil fuel stocks and shares becoming "stranded" assets, those no longer making money. She urged Newham to produce a timetable to detail its plans.

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Rebecca Woo asked whether the authority would show the same moral leadership it did when it excluded firms investing in the tobacco industry from its strategy.

In response, Cllr Terry Paul, the council's cabinet finance chief, said: "Any bad investment we would get rid of. We are doing quit a lot to improve the state of our pension fund."

He added that Newham's independent pension committee is carrying out a review in light of the climate emergency. Its members will be asked to agree a new environmental, social and governance policy taking into account the public health, social and green impacts of investments.

Newham's fund has cut its exposure to fossil fuels, linked to global warming, from four per cent in March 2016 to 2pc last June. The latest plan sees this reduced to 1pc.

All its assests are also with managers signed up to United Nations principles of responsible investment. The fund is also a member of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, among other groups.

Cllr Paul said: "The fund is well diversified with investment in renewables and low exposure to fossil fuel. I'm happy to offer the reassurance to pensioners and employees that their pensions are being well looked after."

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