SBC’s pension fund investing is criticised

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Scottish Borders Council stands accused of investing in companies responsible for climate change while failing to invest in green infrastructure.

A report published by Scottish think-tank Common Weal, UNISON Scotland and Friends of the Earth shows SBC: investing £23.3 million if fossil fuel; having no pension fund investments in renewable energy; and offering no evidence of having a climate change investment strategy.

The report goes on to reveal the top five fossil fuel investments of Scottish Borders Council: Glencore £2.6m; Royal Dutch Shell £1.7m; Apache Corp £1.4m; EOG Resources £1.3m; Anadarko £561,186. SBC’s investments sees it the tenth highest investor in fossil fuels amongst Scottish local authorities.

Responding to the report a Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “At February 28, 2017 just 1.4% of the Scottish Borders Council pension fund was invested in companies who have interests in fossil fuels.

“The focus on renewable energy, and the associated opportunities for investment is growing, however the wider economy is still hugely dependent on fossil fuels for employment, power and transportation.

“The primary duty of the pension fund is to build up a fund of assets to pay for future pension liabilities.

“The pension fund is continually exploring opportunities to maximise investment returns through companies who are market leaders in sustainable and renewable technologies including Tesla and Scottish and Southern Energy. 0.3% of the fund is currently invested in renewables.

“The pension fund committee is currently considering its future approach to wider social, environmental and governance issues and will continue to invest in ways that maximize the benefits to our pensioners and their dependents while recognising its wider responsibilities to society and its environment.”

“The council has a finely balanced and well diversified pension fund which invests in a wide range of assets, delivering top quartile investment returns. We do not invest in any unethical companies.

“We have one of the best funding positions of any pension fund in the Local Government Pension Scheme and one of the lower levels of employer contributions, while also meeting the highest standards of regulation and governance.

“The Scottish Borders pension fund pays out over £18m per annum directly to Borders pensioners and their dependants, providing a massive boost to the local economy.

“Our primary responsibility is to those who currently rely on the fund for their income and those who are relying on future income in retirement.”

Ric Lander, divestment campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland and report author commented: “Divesting from fossil fuels is an opportunity to contribute to a brighter future. That would be good news for Borders’ pension fund members and good news for all of us.”

Five English council pension funds have committed to cut their fossil fuel investments but none of the councils that have divested are in Scotland, questioning Scotland’s claim to be leading on climate change.