• Matthew Dooley

Fossil fuel rethink fuels controversy

Updated: Mar 11

MILLIONS of pounds have been pulled from investment in fossil fuel companies by Hillingdon Council —but an environmental group claims that it has not done enough to distance itself from the industry.

As recently as August 2020, the council had more than £20m of its pension fund invested in energy companies including British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell.

Just one year later, these investments appear to have been pulled from Hillingdon’s pension fund according to documents obtained by The Hillingdon Herald.

Hillingdon Council said: “The fund has a responsible investment policy and is shifting to more environmentally and ethically conscious holdings – as seen from the noted recent disinvestments.”

The council confirmed that although it had pulled this money from fossil fuel companies, it continued to invest money in fossil fuels as part of its global mandate.

An environmental group, Friends of the Earth, claimed that rather than committing to divest from fossil fuels, Hillingdon Council has continued to work with fossil fuel companies.

Research carried out by Friends of the Earth claims that at the end of the 2019/20 fiscal year, Hillingdon’s pension fund held just under £41m in investments in fossil fuel companies.

Rianna Gargiulo, divestment campaign and community organiser for Friends of the Earth, said: “Divestment means committing to end all investment, and publicly cutting ties with fossil fuel companies. Hillingdon pension fund has not done this.

“While Hillingdon’s investments have reduced, the council’s preferred approach of continued investment, while writing letters to fossil fuel companies to ask them to change, is clearly not sufficient in the face of climate breakdown.”

Leader of Hillingdon Council, Councillor Ian Edwards, claimed the council was working to become carbon neutral but would not comment specifically on council investments.

He said: “Our climate pledge relates to the council and the services it provides and we are making good progress towards achieving that pledge. Residents, businesses and our suppliers are subject to national commitments and targets. While we are encouraging early change in behaviours, we will not impose additional burdens that disadvantage our residents.”

Hillingdon, along with more than 20 other London borough councils, has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

The London boroughs of Islington, Lambeth, Southwark and Waltham Forest have committed to ending all investment in fossil fuel companies.

Hillingdon Council noted that its pension fund is required to be run independently and is not directly controlled by the council.

When asked about councils divesting from fossil fuels, Councillor Ed Gemmell (Ind) of neighbouring Buckinghamshire said: “I think it’s essential. If we’re not carbon neutral by 2030 we are going to smash 1.5 degrees and two degrees, so it’s absolutely necessary.”

The news comes amid the release of the United Nation’s intergovernmental panel on climate change report which sounded the alarm about climate change as a “code red for humanity”.

The report states that it is “virtually certain” that humans are the cause of warming around the world and warns that some changes to the climate are already “irreversible”.

The UK is preparing to host the COP24 in Scotland this November to gather leaders from around the world to discuss the climate change crisis.

This year has seen extreme weather events around the world with extreme flooding in Germany and China and major wildfires across Southern Europe and North America, highlighting the effects of climate change.

In addition, last year, 2020, tied with 2016 as the hottest year since records began, according to an analysis by NASA.


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