Barry Sheerman leads the way in calling for fossil fuel divestment

28 March 2017

Barry Sheerman has become the latest MP to join a growing body of UK political leaders adding their support for the global movement for fossil fuel divestment.

Barry Sheerman MPBarry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield, has joined a growing number of cross-party politicians to sign a pledge, calling for their parliamentary pension fund to move its £612 million of assets away from fossil fuels.

The move comes as constituency members across the country are urging their local MPs to show they care about climate change and call on their pension fund to align its investments with the UK’s climate commitments. 

This commitment builds on Barry Sheerman’s previous support for Fossil Free West Yorkshire‘s call for divestment of fossil fuel investments in the West Yorkshire Pension Fund.

Chayley Collis, Coordinator of Huddersfield Friends of the Earth said: “It is hugely positive to see our local MP Barry Sheerman leading the way on climate change action. We now know that preventing dangerous climate change means the vast majority of fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. By divesting their own pension funds from fossil fuels, our political leaders can stand up to the power and influence of the fossil fuel industry and reaffirm the UK’s leadership on climate change. Not only this but they will be protecting themselves, and other pension fund holders from the risk that high carbon investments pose to their returns.”

In 2016, the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund (PCPF) invested millions of pounds of MPs money into fossil fuel companies, including £5.59 million in BP and another £4.9 million in Shell.

The investments are a stark contradiction to the UK government’s commitment under the Paris Agreement to keep global warming well below 2C.

Keeping this commitment would mean leaving at least 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. The values of both BP and Shell stock are based on their entire fossil fuel reserves, not just the 20% they can burn.

Barry Sheerman commented:  “Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity and we now know that the vast majority of  fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change. Divesting the MP’s Pension Fund from fossil fuels is one way we can help reduce the power and influence of the fossil fuel industry and speed up the transition to renewable energy”.

Supported by the ‘Divest Parliament’ campaign, UK citizens have been writing to and organising meetings with their MPs to raise awareness of the issue.

The campaign has been pushing for greater transparency over just where MPs money is being invested, and faced with growing criticism, in March 2017, the pension fund made the decision to make public 20% of its holdings for the first time. 

To date 25 MPs and ex-MPs have signed the divestment pledge.

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More information

●       ‘Divest Parliament’ is a campaign working with MPs from across the political spectrum to address the financial and moral risks related to their pension investments in fossil fuels. It pushes for action to champion responsible investment practices and reduce the fund’s fossil fuel exposure over an appropriate timescale.

●       The campaign asks the Pension Fund to quantify, review and disclose its investments in carbon-intensive industries, engages in a dialogue with fund members and publicly commits to phasing out fossil fuel investments over an appropriate time-scale. This can be done by immediately freezing any new investment in the top 200 largest fossil fuel companies by reserves, and divesting from fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds over 5 years.

●       A group of cross-party MPs and former MPs have been championing this cause and regularly corresponding with the MPs Pension Fund on issues of climate risk and transparency since 2014. The answers given by the Pension Fund trustees, before dismissing the issue entirely at the November 2016 meeting, suggests the trustees are failing members in their understanding and management of climate risk.

●       In March 2017, the PCPF’s Annual report revealed it funnelled £5.59 million into British American Tobacco (BAT) and oil giant BP in 2015. Millions of pounds were also put into oil company Shell and controversial mining firm Rio Tinto.

●       To date, 705 institutions and some 58,000 individuals have joined the global campaign for fossil fuel divestment, representing $5.46 trillion of assets.

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