No excuses now for divestment

December 31, 2017

The Green Party’s Kent County Councillor, Martin Whybrow, is calling on KCC to finally do the right thing and divest from fossil fuel and other unethical shareholdings. This is in light of an expected relaxation by central government of restrictions on the country’s pension funds.

As reported in The Guardian (click here for the full article), recommendations made back in 2014 and again in 2017 by the Law Commission are expected to finally come into force in 2018. The strongest steer is from Guy Opperman, the minister for pensions and financial inclusion, in comments about “putting social value at the heart of our pensions system”.

Martin comments: “KCC has always hidden behind the – anyway dubious – claim of ‘fiduciary responsibility’ – in other words, having to invest to maximise returns for pension holders. This long overdue legal change would remove this excuse.”

KCC administers the Kent Pension Fund, which spans around 500 employers and 110,000 scheme members, with investments of over £4 billion. KCC also has a number of direct investments. It states that the administering committee for the pension fund “will not take up positions on ethical issues. It will not select investment based upon ethical grounds whether that is fossil fuels, tobacco, alcohol, etc.”

County Hall, Maidstone

It is, anyway, debatable whether companies in oil and gas are sensible investments per se, given the commitments of nearly all countries to meet the climate change targets of the Paris Agreement. Reserves of fossil fuels are likely to become “stranded assets” making them virtually worthless.

Martin, alongside Kent Green Party colleagues, has long campaigned on the issue of divestment, presenting the arguments to the pensions committee and at full council.

Similarly, he has previously called for an end to KCC’s direct investments in companies such as British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International. “KCC repeatedly tells Kent residents not to smoke so to have investments in these sorts of companies is wholly hypocritical,” he says.

If you would like to be involved in the Kent Green Party campaign in 2018 to persuade KCC to divest, please let us know. Martin can be contacted at martin.whybrow@kent.gov.uk and there is also a facebook page: Stop Kent County Council Investing in Fossil Fuels

 

 

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