Save our planet and our pensions: Divest from fossil fuels

Stephen Smellie
Stephen Smellie

UNISON will campaign for the divestment of fossil fuel extraction for all pension funds where we have members, for the sake of our planet and our pensions. We all need a reasonable pension so we can live with dignity in our retirement, and we need to reduce carbon emission to lessen global warming. Moreover, continuing to invest in fossil fuels poses a risk to our pension funds.

Stephen Smellie, Scotland Regional Representative, “Our pensions funds consist of billions of pounds spread across many areas to ensure sustainability. We need a successful investment strategy to pay our pensions. However we do have a wider interest – good pensions might not help if the planet is frying.

“Our kids and grand kids won’t thank us if they have to deal with more extreme weather conditions, poisoned air, and a shortage of drinking water leading to millions of deaths, and a refugee crisis that will make the last few years seem like nothing.

Norah Adeyemo
Norah Adeyemo

“Public services will not cope if the temperature of the planet rises over 2˚C that the scientists tell us it must not. One example is Aberdeenshire Council, after Storm Frank, with an £8.5m bill to clean up and repair damage. Our infrastructure, coastal defences, bridges won’t cope. This week we have seen roads and rail tracks melting in the South of England.”

Stephen explained that when governments do actually honour their existing agreements to keep the temperature rise below 2˚C, limiting fossil fuel use, the value of fossil fuel reserves along with the share prices of BP, Shell and other fossil fuel companies will drop, and so will the value of our pension fund investments. He pointed out that 5% of our Scottish local Government Pension funds are invested in fossil fuels – some £1.7bn not North Sea Oil but coal in Colombia, oil fields in Indonesia, and fracking in America.

“We need to propose alternative strategies that will be more socially useful and less environmentally damaging at the same time as making the necessary return on investments. It could be renewable energy, social housing or public transport.”

“This won’t be easy, we do not yet have sufficient influence or power over our pension funds. We need to engage with our members, with the councillors who sit on the finance committees, fund managers and stress on them that their legal and fiduciary duty requires them to divest.”

Norah Adeyemo, Glasgow City, said “This motion is very relevant to our members and all of us. The rich, the powerful don’t care about our health, our lives, our homes and our communities. They don’t care about our planet and climate change. Our money that we put into our pension schemes should not be used for weapons of mass destruction that destroy our lives, our communities and our planet.

“We need to mobilise about this issue in our communities and or planet. We need to mobilise about these issues in our communities and branches.

“One issue not in this motion is fracking in Scotland Frackwatch has collected 60,000 signatures from people like us who are angry that governments and multi-national companies continue to use our hard earned money and pensions on schemes like this that devastate and destroy our communities and leave us paying the price in terms of poor health and deplorable and dangerous housing if left unchallenged these issues will continue to devastate our lives and the planet. We can’t ignore this issue but we need to be listened to.”

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