Protestors to demand Greater Manchester pension fund divests from fossil fuels

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Campaigners will give the city-region’s authorities a ‘wake-up call’ - quite literally - over the controversial issue.

Protestors are planning to give Greater Manchester authorities a literal “wake-up call” over the city-region’s pension fund’s controversial level of investment in fossil fuels this week.

Fossil Fuel Greater Manchester will be holding an early-morning demonstration outside the offices of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) on Wednesday (3 November).

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The protest comes after analysis showed the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) has a staggering figure of around £1bn invested in oil, coal and gas - more than any other public sector fund in the country.

Fossil Fuel GM are calling on the city-region’s elected mayor Andy Burnham to support divestment away from fossil fuel and towards cleaner, greener energy sources.

What is the Fossil Fuel GM protest taking place this week?

Pensioners and pension fund members will gather outside the combined authority’s offices at 8am.

To symbolise their desire to “wake up” those in charge on the issue of divestment campaigners will be wearing pyjamas and making a lot of noise outside the offices.

A protest against fossil fuel investment outside the Greater Manchester Pension Fund offices in Droylsden in 2018. Photo: Friends of the Earth ManchesterA protest against fossil fuel investment outside the Greater Manchester Pension Fund offices in Droylsden in 2018. Photo: Friends of the Earth Manchester
A protest against fossil fuel investment outside the Greater Manchester Pension Fund offices in Droylsden in 2018. Photo: Friends of the Earth Manchester | Friends of the Earth Manchester

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Fossil Free GM is a coalition of organisations which wants the pension fund to immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies, divest from all fossil fuel companies within five years and work with the GMCA and develop a low-carbon investment programme for the city-region.

The demonstration is one of a number of protests taking place across the country on Wednesday as it is when world leaders gathered at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow will discuss finance.

How much does the pension fund have invested in fossil fuel companies?

Manchester World looked at data collected by UK Divest and analysed by our sister title National World which revealed the vast amount of investment in oil, coal and gas by the fund looking after the pensions of Greater Manchester’s public sector workers.

Estimates showed that the fund had around £1.07bn ploughed into oil, coal and gas firms in April 2020, making up around 4.59% of the total investment.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It is the largest sum held in the sector by any public sector pension fund and the sixth-largest as a percentage of the total amount invested.

Furthermore, the Greater Manchester figure had to be estimated by the pressure group as the authorities did not properly answer its Freedom of Information (FOI) request for details of its holdings.

What have the campaigners said?

Fossil Free GM says the pension fund is heading in the wrong direction and urgently needs to change course.

Campaigner Maggie Walker said: “Investing our pensions in fossil fuel companies is financially risky as well as morally wrong.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We want Andy Burnham to call on Tameside Council, which manages the fund, to ensure that the fund is run in line with Greater Manchester’s ambition to be a green city.

“This means that GMPF should develop a clear plan to get rid of their climate-damaging fossil fuel investments soon.

“I’m so shocked that our GM fund has been named the dirtiest fund nationally with £1bn invested in fossil fuel companies.

“I’d expect them to be a leader and join 150 pension funds including New York, NEST and the Dutch Government Pension Fund -ABP and commit to divest now.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I’m horrified that they have actually increased fossil fuel investments including in coal-mining companies.

“Mr Burnham should call on them to follow his lead and not let GMPF sleep-walk into supporting climate breakdown.”

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham  Credit: Getty ImagesGreater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham  Credit: Getty Images
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham Credit: Getty Images | Getty Images

Joan Bennett, whose pension is looked after by the fund, said: “As a GMPF pensioner, I’m really sad to see Andy Burnham hiding behind the excuse that he has ‘no jurisdiction over the pension fund.’

“Maybe not, but he has a massive amount of influence and should be working with the Greater Manchester councils to bring an end to the fund’s shameful investments.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sam O’Brien, another GMPF contributing member, said: “My trade union, Unison, has called on the pension fund to divest. Mr Burnham is way behind the curve on this.”

What has the pension fund said?

When asked about the £1bn it has invested in fossil fuel companies the pension fund issued a robust defence of its approach.

It said it believes it is better to be a stakeholder in oil, coal and gas firms and use that as leverage to get them to transition to cleaner and more environmentally-friendly energy sources.

It said that divestment could inadvertently lead to holdings in these businesses being snapped up instead by people with no interest at all in tackling climate change.

And it said that by ploughing money into the sector it was already investing huge amounts in renewable energy.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.