Norfolk Pension Fund and catastrophic climate change

Norfolk Pension Fund has over £140 million invested, directly or indirectly, in the fossil fuel industry in companies such as BG Group, Royal Dutch Shell and Rio Tinto1. Historically these industries have been very profitable. However, they have a big problem. They are responsible for a vast amount of the emissions that are causing global climate change, which poses a threat to the very future of humanity.

The latest figures2 suggest that we can only emit 353 more gigatons of CO2 into our atmosphere to have a chance of limiting the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C. This point of no return, when catastrophic climate change is inevitable, is the target agreed to by the international community at the 2015 Paris Climate Convention. 353 gigatons may sound like a lot, until we consider that reserves held by fossil fuel companies total approximately 942 gigatons. Therefore, to meet this vital target, the oil, coal and gas reserves already discovered cannot be entirely used and no additional fossil fuel extraction or exploration can be undertaken. In climate terms, we simply cannot afford a single new oil well, coal mine or shale gas field.

Fossil fuel companies are valued on their reserves and so they are predicted to plummet in value as soon as the reality of our climate targets is truly faced. With the recent ratification of the Paris agreement, such a time is approaching fast. The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has warned that such losses are “potentially huge”3. Furthermore, evidence suggests fossil fuel companies are already losing value, while the value of the renewables sector goes from strength to strength.

The grim irony is that our pension funds should be about protecting our future, yet with these huge investments they are helping to ensure a very unstable future instead – both for our environment and for our economies.

Divestment is the removal of money from certain organisations (the opposite of investment). It was a powerful tool that helped to bring about the end of apartheid and now it is being used to encourage better environmental decisions. Instead of helping to fund the fossil fuel industry, our pensions can instead help to fund a clean, low carbon future.

The divestment bug is infectious and spreading fast. Commitments to divest from fossil fuels have been made by notable organisations including the cities of Paris, Berlin, Oslo, Copenhagen and Melbourne, the British Medical Association, the World Council of Churches, the Environment Agency, and many others.

So far, nine councils have passed motions calling for divestment and four pension funds have made commitments. The sooner Norfolk County Council joins this list, the sooner we can be safe in the knowledge that the money we pay into our pensions isn’t causing us harm.

We are petitioning Norfolk Pension Fund to freeze any new fossil fuel investments and to divest its current portfolio from fossil fuel industries within five years.

If you are concerned about the money that Norfolk Pension Fund has invested in the fossil fuel industry, please add your name to this petition via the link below. Please also email the NPF directly to tell them your concerns and contact your MP or local councillors.

Matthew White

Fossil Free Norfolk