Protestors demand pension cash be 'divested' away from fossil fuels at demo in South Shields

Protestors demanded their pension pots be ‘divested’ away from environmentally harmful industries during a day of action.

Some 30 campaigners, dressed up and armed with banners, staged a demonstration outside South Shields Town Hall as a meeting of the Tyne and Wear Pension Fund Committee took place inside.

The fund, which is administered from South Tyneside Council, has approximately 170,000 members, drawn from the six councils in Tyne and Wear, as well as Northumberland County Council and a number of other organisations which serve the public.

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Administrators of the scheme, which manages billions of pounds, say significant changes have been made to improve the environmental impact of the pension fund, which they say already invests in the renewable energy sector.

Pension protestors outside South Shields Town Hall.

But campaigners, who are all members of the fund, said the pension scheme invests more than £230million in oil, gas and coal are to stage a protest outside the next meeting of the fund’s committee and they want to see that cash divested away from fossil fuels in recognition of the ‘urgency of climate change’.

Organiser Lesley Mountain said: “Pensions are meant to be about security. As pensioners we see no security for the next generations.

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"Investing in coal, oil and gas will destroy everyone’s future. We don’t want to profit from this, so we’ve taken personal action. We’ve moved around 3% of our pensions this year into a fund that helps to reduce the impact of climate change.

"We urge Tyne & Wear Pension Fund to follow our lead and be part of the solution, rather than continuing to fuel the climate crisis for decades to come.”

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Pension protestors outside South Shields Town Hall.

Members also presented a cheque worth more than £3,000 with Giftaid to presented to eco-friendly bicycle refurbishing company Recyke y’bike.

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They also held a three-minute silence for the planet, and wore black gags to ‘demonstrate their lack of a voice in decisions to invest £230million in fossil fuels’.

The protest took place on Tuesday, September 27, and a further, wider demonstration is due to take place in Leeds on September 29 outside a conference held by the fund’s partner, the Border to Coast Pension Pool.

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A spokesperson for the Tyne and Wear Pension Fund said: “The Pensions Committee has a fiduciary duty to both employers and members to seek an appropriate financial return for the level of risk that is taken.

"The Pension’s Fund recognises that climate change is a significant financial risk and seeks to address this risk, along with many others, when determining its investment strategy.

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“The Fund has already made significant changes to its investment strategy to support the energy transition and this work is continuing.

"This includes investing £750million in the Future World Series of funds which target material reductions in carbon exposures, £465million committed to a Climate Opportunities fund in addition to long standing investments in the renewable energy sector, all of which help support global decarbonisation.

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“Last year the Fund published its first Climate Change Policy which includes ambitious targets to achieve Net Zero by 2050 or sooner and interim targets to reduce carbon emissions from 2019 levels by up to 35% by 2025 and up to 60% by 2030.”