WIGAN’S public-sector workers have seen their pensions slashed in value due to their fund’s investment in fossil fuels, campaigners claim.
Manchester Friends of the Earth say the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF), which manages the retirement money for the borough’s public-sector employees, has lost around £148m in 18 months through its investments in coal mining.
The green group says share prices in non-renewable companies have tumbled due to greater awareness of climate change and accused the fund of putting workers’ pensions at risk.
Wigan MP and shadow secretary for climate change and energy Lisa Nandy has now also called for further investment in cleaner energy solutions.
Ms Nandy said: “The Government has pulled the rug out from clean energy technologies like wind and solar and now ministers have confirmed plans to privatise the Green Investment Bank, casting further doubt on their commitment to renewable energy.
“This failure to support the clean energy sector damages the confidence of investors like the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and leaves Britain trailing in the race for high-skilled jobs in this important industry.”
Environmental campaigners say investors including celebrities and sovereign wealth funds have been withdrawing trillions of dollars from fossil fuel companies.
Bank of England governor Mark Carney also warned of potential huge losses from share price falls if reserves of coal, oil and gas cannot be burned in order to tackle the effects of climate change and become “stranded” in the ground.
However, the fund has now issued a long statement reassuring employees protecting their pension promises was its top priority and it engaged in regular debates about the ethical issues related to the investments.
It also said it did not intend to fully divest from fossil fuels but was also looking to put more money into greener, more renewable energy solutions.
A spokesman said: “The fund’s management panel takes its responsibilities very seriously in looking after the pension promises of more than 340,000 members.
“It is critical we assess all financial risks to the fund, including those posed by fossil fuels. The issues relating to investing in companies that generate a significant proportion of their sales and profits from fossil fuels are exceptionally complex.
“The fund does consider environmental risks when choosing its investments. In terms of the fund’s general approach to ethical investing, the investment management of the fund’s portfolios of company shares and bonds is delegated to a small number of external professional fund managers, who consider environmental risks as part of performing their role.
“There are no plans to disinvest from fossil fuel companies in the medium term. The fund also has investments in renewable energy and it is increasing its exposure to such investments, some of which have a North West focus.”
Residents can sign a petition calling for divestment by visiting http://bit.ly/divestgmpf