Over 900 people ask Hertfordshire County Council to stop investing in fossil fuels

Harpenden children protested over climate change today and also received the support of many adults.

Harpenden children protested over climate change today and also received the support of many adults.Picture: Laura Bill - Credit: Archant

After over 900 people asked Herts County Council to stop investing in fossil fuels, it has emerged the amount invested on polluting technologies by the Local Government Pension Fund has almost halved since the end of last year.

In December 2019, the Hertfordshire pension fund had £94 million invested in fossil fuel companies, but data reported to a meeting of the county council’s performance and resources cabinet panel on Friday, September 4, now shows that by June 2020 that had dropped to £48 million.

The reduction of £46 million – in the £5 billion investment fund set aside for more than 100,000 current and former staff at county councils, district and borough councils, academies and others – means investments in fossil fuel companies now represent less than one per cent of the fund’s overall portfolio.

Executive member for performance and resources Cllr Ralph Sangster said it would not be constitutional for the cabinet or cabinet panel to give instructions or recommendations on investment into funds.

The report to the panel noted that the pensions committee ‘does not fetter’ the investment decisions taken by its investment managers, by imposing restrictions on companies or investment, and the committee had fiduciary responsibility.

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But it did recognise that non-financial considerations can be considered when making investment decisions such as environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors and it was reported that during the last year, the pension committee reviewed the investment strategy.

It was also reported that last September the pension committee agreed to allocate £100m to a ‘carbon aware fund’.

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Meanwhile analysis of the fund’s ‘carbon footprint’ as also been undertaken.

And as a result, it says the fund can use this baseline to monitor what is driving the funds carbon exposure over time; identify if it is decreasing in line with expectations and identify ‘exposures and holdings that merit further conversations’ with investment managers.

The councillors agreed to recognise the importance of the impact of carbon based industries on the climate and they agreed to acknowledge the ‘considerable’ amount of work undertaken by the pension committee in assessing the impact.

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