Newham Council accused of hypocrisy over fossil fuel investments

Newham Town Hall, East Ham.

Newham Council has vowed to pay all its staff at least £10.85 an hour. - Credit: Ken Mears

The town hall has been accused of hypocrisy over its shares in fossil fuel companies.

Campaigners have urged Newham Council to stop investing in firms exploiting coal, oil and gas via its employee pension fund.

Liam Adam from Newham People Power said: "[The] council has had ample time to organise a bespoke fund which has no exposure to fossil fuels.

"It is outrageous and hypocritical for the council to be taxing Newham residents for car emissions when they are profiteering from the fossil fuel industry."

Vehicles that produce more pollution cost more to park in Newham under a scheme which was activated in January.

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A spokesperson for campaign group Fossil Free Newham said: "Newham’s employee pension fund invests almost £26million in companies connected with coal, oil and gas.

"Fossil fuel stocks are on a long-term downward trajectory and the fund risks losses unless it divests from them."

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She urged the council to invest in clean energy companies that offer "good green jobs", rather than funding fuels that "kill us through pollution and climate breakdown".  

"Newham has already brought in welcome measures like low traffic neighbourhoods to reduce pollution. In investing in green energy, Newham Council can lead the way to a just, clean future for its residents," she added.

Of its £1.5billion pension pot, £26,217,717 is invested in fossil fuels, according to a report from the green groups Friends of the Earth and Platform published in February.

This is the fourth time Newham has been urged to divest. Calls were made in April 2017, June 2019 and January 2020. The local authority declared a climate emergency in April 2019.

Newham Council did not respond to a request for comment. However, Cllr Nareser Osei, who chairs the authority's pensions committee, said Newham has one of the lowest exposures to fossil fuels in the country.

Cllr Osei, speaking at a council meeting on March 17, said Newham is leading the way in divestment, but more could be done.

"We need to balance longer-term investment aims and recognise complete elimination might not be possible due to the underlying nature of some of the assets [held]," she said.

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