For some 3 years now Divest Brent – a campaign closely linked to Brent Friends of the Earth – has been campaigning to persuade the Council to divest its Pension Fund of fossil fuel investments – in other words to dispose of these investments. We have received over 1,400 signatures on our petition (including well over 1,100 Brent residents); we have contacted all councillors pointing out the benefits of divestment – not only in terms of indirectly depriving the fossil fuel industry of investment capital but also in terms of investment performance for the pension fund (for example, Shell and BP each lost 40% of their share value as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic compared to just 20% for the Stock Market as a whole – meaning that the Pension Fund lost around £8 million through not having divested). We have met with the Council three times and, between us, Divest Brent and Brent Friends of the Earth have attended three Pension Fund Sub-committee meetings. We have talked to a range of groups and secured the endorsement of a number of Brent community and civil society groups.
While the Pension Fund Sub-committee has so far firmly refused to go all out for divestment there are signs of movement. They have updated their Responsible Investment Policy and their Investment Strategy to take into account the risks of climate change. And at their meeting of July 16, 2020 they agreed to invest £28 million into a low carbon investment fund. Although this represents only 3% of the Pension Fund there was much talk of “dipping toes in the water” and this being an “initial investment” which suggests that this is a start of a process of decarbonisation.
Divest Brent believes that 2020 could be the year when some kind of commitment will be made by the Council. We are ready to submit our petition to the Council and are working behind the scenes to agree some appropriate commitment to decarbonise the Pension Fund. We believe the end is in sight.