Waltham Forest Council pension fund first in UK to quit fossil fuels

Divest campaigners, including those from Waltham Forest, outside City Hall in central London earlier this year

Waltham Forest Council’s pension committee has become the first in the UK to pledge to withdraw investments from the fossil fuel industry.

The news, a significant victory for local climate change campaigners, comes just a year after the grassroots group Divest Waltham Forest was formed.

At a committee meeting at Waltham Forest Town Hall last night a recommendation was approved stating that the council’s pension fund would “exclude fossil fuels from its strategy over the next five years.”

Walthamstow activist Rob Platts, a co-founder of the local divestment campaign set up in August 2015, said: “With this decision, Waltham Forest [Council] has shown true leadership.

“By divesting from fossil fuels, the fund is not only taking necessary action to protect fund members’ pensions from risky investments, but it is also joining hundreds of public institutions worldwide in taking a stand against an industry which is causing climate chaos and endangering our future.”

The Waltham Forest pension fund – worth £735million – currently invests £23.9million in the oil and gas industries. Last year data was published showing that UK local government pension schemes in total invest more than £14billion in the fossil fuel industry.

Councillor Simon Miller, chairman of the Pension Fund Committee, said: “Waltham Forest Pension Fund is proud to commit to divesting from fossil fuels. Not only does this mean that the fund will not be invested in stranded assets, but will be actively investing in cleaner, greener investments to the benefit of our community, borough, and environment.”

Ellen Gibson, UK divestment campaigner for 350.org, said: “This is a big moment for the divestment movement in the UK. Waltham Forest has demonstrated the kind of action we need all pension funds to be taking to address the urgent issue of climate change and to protect their workers’ futures. We are calling on them to join Waltham Forest and hundreds of institutions globally, and divest from fossil fuels.”

Waltham Forest is joining nearly 600 institutions worth over £2.6 trillion globally – including over 70 pension funds – to make a divestment commitment. In the UK prominent public institutions including the British Medical Association, Guardian Media Group and Quakers have committed to fully divest. Three local government pension schemes – the Environment Agency, South Yorkshire and Haringey – have made partial commitments.