Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
2:16 PM 29th March 2021

West Yorkshire Mayoral Candidates Challenge Fossil Fuel Investments In Local Authority Pension Fund

They may not agree on much but all 4 of the main political parties’ West Yorkshire Mayoral candidates are agreed that the West Yorkshire Pension Fund needs to drop its fossil fuel investments.

The Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaign has been really encouraged to see the cross-party support for getting fossil fuel investments out of the local authority pension fund. Matthew Robinson (Conservative) Andrew Cooper (Green) Tracy Brabin (Labour)and Stewart Golton (LibDem) are all supporters of the Fossil Free West Yorkshire campaign.

The West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) is the local authority pension fund for Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield councils. WYPF has £503 million invested in fossil fuels. Research in November 2020 estimated that WYPF has lost £211 million over the last 3 years in oil investments, the second highest loss out of 57 local authority UK pension funds surveyed. Mark Carney, UN special envoy for climate action and finance, the G20’s Financial Stability Board and the Environmental Audit Committee have repeatedly warned that UK investors run the risk of exposing themselves to ‘stranded assets’ as fossil fuel stocks are made worthless by the inevitable transition to a low carbon economy.

Nick Hodgkinson from Fossil Free West Yorkshire said: “Investing in climate-wrecking fossil fuels after declaring a climate emergency makes no sense. Recent research has shown that fossil fuel investments are increasingly financially risky as well. There are clear ethical and environmental arguments for divesting from fossil fuels and we are delighted that the West Yorkshire Mayoral candidates from the 4 main parties agree. Once elected, we would hope that the successful candidate would advocate with the WYPF, through Bradford Council, to re-examine their fossil free investments.”

Labour Party Mayoral candidate, Tracy Brabin, who is MP for Batley & Spen commented: “The pension fund does excellent work developing and growing the scheme on behalf of its members. It’s important to stress that the new mayor will have no powers over the pension fund whatsoever. However, I would like to see such funds divest from fossil fuels and I urge WYPF to explore the best ways of delivering this, conscious of course that we can’t second guess the serious responsibilities it has to the thousands of retired public sector workers who are members of the scheme.”

Green Party Mayoral candidate, Andrew Cooper, who is a Councillor for Kirklees Council commented: “I wholeheartedly support the divestment from fossil fuels from West Yorkshire Pension Fund. This is not just my position but also that of the Green Party and we have consistently asked Labour Councillors on the Investment Panel of West Yorkshire Pension Fund to back us on this without success so far."

Conservative Mayoral candidate, Matthew Robinson, who is also a councillor with Leeds Council also commented:“For a long time I’ve spoken about more diversity in the pension options for members and the opportunity to divest the pension fund. I’ve been an advocate of more choice and more information being shared with members. Fossil fuels divesting is an area that requires study and worthy consideration given the nature of the climate challenges we all face, the increase in green technologies and how we can best protect West Yorkshire pensions”.

Liberal Democrat Mayoral candidate, Stewart Golton, who is a Councillor with Leeds Council commented: “Pension schemes should be investing in enterprises that can help deliver a zero carbon future to save the planet. Fossil fuels are yesterday’s answer to powering the future.”