A historic vote took place at Shropshire Council today when a motion on the future of the Shropshire County Pension Fund was debated and passed by 42 votes with 1 abstention.
The motion, put forward by Green Party councillor Julian Dean, called on the county’s flagship pension fund to divest from fossil fuels by 2023.
The fund manages the retirement portfolios of Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Council staff, as well as the Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, school staff and town and parish council employees. According to the last published annual report, the fund has £27 million invested in BP and Shell and uses the asset manager BlackRock, a company that has been linked to climate-destruction.
Among those watching the vote closely were pension fund members and residents involved with Fossil Free Shropshire, a grassroots campaign group that launched in March. Over 200 people have taken action through the group’s website, sending emails to the pension fund committee and councillors calling on them to support divestment.
“We are thrilled by this news,” said Jamie Russell, a spokesperson for Fossil Free Shropshire. “Fossil fuel investments are a disaster for the planet and we are immensely grateful to Shropshire councillors for showing real, cross-party leadership on this issue. We have always maintained that the fund will be financially healthier without these ethically-dubious investments. Hardworking pensioners will enjoy better returns while resting safe in the knowledge that their pension won’t be giving financial support to industries that are wrecking the planet for their children and grandchildren.”
Shropshire Council is one of the largest employers that pays into the Shropshire County Pension Fund. However it doesn’t control the fund’s investment strategy.
“The next step,” says Russell, “is for the Pensions Committee to outline what steps it will take in response to this vote. We will be watching the committee’s next meeting very closely. We are hopeful that the pension fund will recognise that there is no ethical or financial justification for investing in companies that are destroying the planet. Declaring a climate emergency is not just a case of saying the right words. Acting on those words is what counts. Future generations will judge us on the choices we make right here, right now.”