Swansea Council’s Pension Fund Committee politely stonewalled Climate Change protesters

XR Swansea divestment Pension Fund Committee outside Committee Room at Guildhall 12th-Sept-2019

Swansea Council’s Pension Fund Committee politely stonewalled Climate Change protesters at their meeting on Thursday (12/09/2022). When a campaigner raised his hand to query slow progress in divesting from big oil, mining and tobacco, the verdict was ‘No questions,’

The Pension meeting was chaired by Swansea deputy leader Clive Lloyd who had claimed in letter to campaigners earlier this week that the council had a ‘fiduciary responsibility’ to maximise investment returns and keep council workers’ contributions ‘affordable and sustainable’.

He said the Council was reducing the carbon footprint of its pension portfolio by 50% by 2022 but that might not seem to match what the council has declared to be a ‘climate emergency’. And what we can see for ourselves, at a time when global warming is outstripping most predictions, in the death and destruction of hurricane Dorian and nearer home in impact of chaotic weather on farm production and one of many old upland reservoirs.

Fiduciary fiddlesticks? Retention of shares in Shell, BP, Rio Tinto and British American Tobacco is glossed in Lloyd’s letter as ‘investee engagement…to influence positive company behaviour…helping Shell transform itself to a company fit for a carbon-free future.’ While the Pension fund ‘actively seeks to invest in positive renewable techniques.’

XR Swansea divestment Pension Fund Committee outside Committee Room at Guildhall 12th-Sept-2019

Would it not be simpler and more effective if the pension money to come straight out of the toxic old business and into something cleaner and more sustainable, especially if this can already give good returns, with the prospect of better ones in the future as global markets head that way?

Now that ‘taking back control’ is the order of the day, it could be a good time for council workers. pension contributors and tax-payers to take more responsibility for how our money is spent.

Just as most workers would prefer to do a good job well, most of us would rather see the money we pay out, like it or not, put to good use, not bad. At least to do no harm, especially if we’ve got nothing to lose by it, and everything to gain.

If people feel the Swansea Pension Fund could do better, and the council represent them better, here’s a petition we can sign

Council backs People’s & Youth Assemblies on the Climate & Ecological Emergency

XR Swansea - Divest Action - Guildhall - 26 07 2019

A Swansea People’s Assembly at the Guildhall, why not? The idea was put forward by climate change demonstrators, aka Extinction Rebellion XR, in discussion with Swansea councillors on the Guildhall steps last Thursday. Council leader Rob Stewart’s response was simply

‘Yes, we can do that! We’re really keen to see more people involved in decision making processes’.

While deputy Clive Lloyd suggested there might also be space in some other prominent positioned city-centre building for more everyday use to raise awareness of the issues and solutions.

This sort of doors-open meeting of minds could serve us well not only as we try to avert climate collapse but also in dealing with other issues that matter to people across the city and county. More of us would be able make our voices heard, learn from each other and those we elect or pay to serve us. Council decision-making would become more broadly based and the new model could be a small step forward in defence of life on earth as well as a consolidation of democracy where we live.

To their credit, the XR people in Swansea have been doing their homework as well as taking their message onto the streets. If you feel you’ve heard that horror story before, it may just happen to be true. We’ve just had yet another record hottest day. Rail and air services are restored, until the next storm-surge has our name on it.

I’m old enough to remember and sadly miss the first call of cuckoo, first sight of swallows and the nuisance of stopping to wipe dead insects off the windscreen. So it’s odd to note that those who now lead the uphill charge to save the Earth wont even remember what’s already lost.

I’m glad the XR movement in Swansea has a good mix of old and young and the same now goes for Swansea Council which adds its authority to recognition of the Climate Emergency and seems to be moving in the right direction. On Thursday, the XR people were told that £500 million of pension funds had been pulled out of banks that invest heavily in fossil fuels. This is not just a matter for councils although the worst offenders are US-based JP Morgan etc. More familiar here in the UK, high street banks Barclays and HSBC are runners up in the race for new oil and gas. It doesn’t take a council or rocket science to switch bank accounts and there are more creditable alternatives in say Nationwide and Co-op Bank.

View the petition here

Swansea Council says it’s also working to unhitch its pension funds from fossil investments, but this can not be done at the stroke of a pen. The council doesn’t manage its pension funds, if only because a corrupt or cash-strapped council boss might be as tempted as a private company boss to dip into the pension pot. Meanwhile XR has been invited to make a presentation and submit a resolution to help the Pension Fund Board & Committee move things on more quickly.

Louise Gibbard, a Labour councillor elected in 2017 is to head a new Future Generations and Equality committee and promises that this will also press for progress on climate change. As Extinction Rebels and other campaign groups like Friends of the Earth are already aware, planet and people go together. Young have more to lose than old from climate collapse, and the drying out of once-fertile land is decimating some of the poorest on Earth – one reason why refugees seek sanctuary in Swansea.

XR Swansea - Divest Action - Guildhall - 26 07 2019

Written by Greg Wilkinson
West Cross
SA3 5AH

Lobbying Swansea Council Pension Fund Board

Today we lobbied Swansea Council Pension Fund Board to encourage them to put pressure on the Pension Fund Committee to divest their funds far more quickly from fossil fuels.

They have written a Responsible Investment Policy that measures the carbon footprints of all the investments in their portfolio and also committed funds to investments following the “Low Carbon Index” tracker

£500m of assets are being transferred as we speak, some into a Clean Tech Fund, an Infrastructure Fund and alternative fuels.

The Welsh Government are committed to full divestment by 2050 but this is woefully to long a timescale to deal with the emergency that has been declared.

Pension Fund Board and Committee Members are justifying retaining investments in fossil fuel companies on the basis that this enables them to have a seat at the table and a say in how they operate,

Jeffrey Dong, Chief Treasury Officer at City & County of Swansea, pointed out that if you dis-invest fully then you will lose the opportunity to influence the corporations and push for a transformation to low carbon investments.

Is this the best strategy?? Surely divesting fully sends a strong message and will have influence on the corporations. Retaining shares and being a relatively minor voice is a very risky strategy to bring about the changes required in this emergency.

The Pension Fund Forum recently announce success stating that Shell is now committed to carbon reduction targets and the CEO has his pay linked to performance. Read more.

Swansea Council was trustee of the Pension Fund but has now delegated this to the Pension Fund Committee so have no binding control over the committee.

Saying that, we believe a petition followed up by a motion from Swansea Councillors will have a positive effect and put pressure on the Pension Fund Committee to more, much sooner.

XR Swansea are calling for 100% divestment from fossil fuel investments within the next 12 months. Why not??

Nationally across Wales there are 5 Pension Fund Boards and 8 Local Authority Pension Funds (yes it is confusing!). Swansea is keen to make it known that they are ahead of their colleagues but it’s clear that much more can be done to set a precedent. Cardiff Council might have something to say about that. Read more here

There is no commitment from the Wales Pension Partnership to fully divest but a draft policy in place and the members are responding with amendments before it gets voted on and adopted.

XR Swansea on Swansea Sound at 1.37..

Divestment with Swansea Council’s Pension Fund Committee

Swansea Council Divestment Campaign - XR Swansea - Extinction Rebellion

Swansea Council’s Pension Fund Committee may not agree to remove fossil fuel investment banks from their portfolio because these investment banks offer good returns. One of the investment banks they use is JP Morgan and Aberdeen Asset Management. However, by the time our current council employees retire, fossil fuel investment may have dried up due to the climate emergency. Therefore, Swansea Council Pension Fund committee needs to move away from fossil fuel investments to more environmentally friendly investments.

Divestment Protest Organised by XR Swansea Outside The Guildhall..

Global banks, led by JP Morgan Chase, invested $1.9 trillion in fossil fuel projects (FFP’s) since the 2016 Paris Climate Pact. The top banks investing heavily in FFP’s are JP Morgan ($196.66 billion), Wells Fargo ($151.60 billion), Bank of America ($106.69). Barclays lay in 6th position with $85.18 billion poured into FFP’s, HSBC with $57.81 billion and RBS funding $4.37 billion into FFP’s all since the 2016 Paris Climate Pact.

Aberdeen Asset Management also fund FFP’s and can be seen in the links below. We need to dry up fossil fuel funding of oil companies as they will continue drilling existing wells and seek new wells to drill and extract fossil fuels which in contra to reducing climate change and global temperature below 1.5º Celsius by 2030. The links below offer further reading.

https://www.desmogblog.com/2019/03/20/jpmorgan-chase-tops-banks-financing-fossil-fuels-climate-change

https://www.aberdeenstandard.com/docs?editionId=217386d8-1480-410d-96f5-495cde03d868

Oil And Gas Giants Spend Millions Lobbying To Block Climate Change Policies 

Every year, the world’s five largest publicly owned oil and gas companies spend approximately $200 million on lobbying designed to control, delay or block binding climate-motivated policy. Read more…

Pink Sparrows Ground Display

Following Swansea Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency on 27th June, members of Swansea Extinction Rebellion will perform a “Pink Sparrows Ground Display”. Beach performances during the Swansea air show, July 6-7, offer a light-hearted way of raising awareness of the Climate Emergency with the public. The ‘sparrows’ will perform the moves made famous by the Red Arrows to create a ground show designed to provoke curiosity and raise awareness of the role of aviation in climate breakdown.

By declaring a Climate Emergency, Swansea Council recognises that our climate is changing rapidly and threatens our future. We must act now to reduce harm and reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change. The environmental impact of aviation is growing as more and more people take advantage of cheap flights made possible by government subsidies. The current situation of no taxation on aviation fuel is nonsense. Government is subsidising polluters so they can pollute more. The attendance of thousands at the air display is an opportunity to raise awareness of climate breakdown and call for an end to government subsidies and for change in our attitudes to air travel.

Interview with Flo, our lead Sparrow..

And it is more than this – we aim to show we are not sitting around waiting for climate change, but working to build a future by creating community. The Pink Sparrows are part of XR’s regenerative culture working joyfully on the most important issue of our time.

Pink Sparrows outside the Guildhall in Swansea warming up for the Air Show

Join us at our Pop Up Protest Party in Oxford Street on August 3rd.