The campaign started in the Autumn of 2017 with the launch of a petition calling on the Council to divest Brent Pension Fund from fossil fuel investments. The petition now has over 1,000 signatures and we will be looking at the best time to submit it to the Council (see below). We now have nearly 30 supporters who receive our monthly email newsletter and around half of these are “activists” which include a core group of around 10 who are regularly involved in attending meetings, running petition stalls etc.
From early on we have worked closely with Brent Friends of the Earth (FoE). Many of our activists and members are members of Brent FoE which has provided considerable support, to the extent that we consider ourselves for most purposes to be one of its projects.
We have had 3 meetings so far with the Council – including the Deputy Leader of the Council and Chairman of the Pension Fund sub-committee at all meetings with other councillors, including the Cabinet Lead Member for the Environment and Labour Party Chief Whip, and the Head of Finance.
Since we started, the ruling Labour Party has committed to divestment in its 2018 election manifesto and this commitment was confirmed when the Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency in July 2019. We have been waiting for a position paper on divestment from the Council, which should be discussed at the October 2 meeting of the Pension Fund Sub-committee and which should set out a detailed strategy and timetable for divestment. If the paper falls short of this then we will engage with the Sub-committee accordingly, deploying as appropriate our petition and also the significant number of councillors who are friends of Divest Brent.
A major stumbling block for all London boroughs seeking to divest their investments is that they are being mandated by the government to make substantially all their investments (subject to fairly minor exceptions) in the London Collective Investment Vehicle (LCIV or CIV), one of a number of regional investment pools, covering the whole of England and Wales, for Local Government Pension Schemes. The problem is that currently the CIV has no fossil-free funds in which boroughs can invest. It has appointed a Chief Investment Officer (CIO) who is taking up the post on September 2. The CIV say that the new CIO will be making an early appointment of a Responsible Investment Officer who will concentrate on establishing ethical and sustainable funds within the CIV, including fossil-free funds. Divest Brent have been working with other London divest groups to lobby both their councils and the CIV direct to ensure that fossil-free funds are prioritised. We will be seeking an early meeting with the new CIO.
In the meantime we have received endorsements from Clean Air for Brent, Transition Town Kensal to Kilburn, Brent Trades Council and the Brent branch of the National Education Union.
We are hoping that the Council is on course for establishing a credible strategy for divesting the Brent Pension Fund before the next Council election in May 2022. If this is not the case then we are in a good position to work with the Council to develop such a strategy.