Fury over £240m South Yorkshire pension fund fracking investment

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Almost a quarter of a billion pounds from the pensions pot for South Yorkshire council workers is invested in fracking companies, it has emerged.

South Yorkshire Pensions Authority (SYPA), which manages the pension fund for employees at all four district councils within the region, has more than £240 million tied up in the fossil fuel industry, a new report today (Monday, September 3) revealed.

Sheffield Council vehemently opposes fracking, having previously voted to ban the controversial practice on all council-owned land.

Fracking campaigners have urged council leaders to show this opposition is more than just ‘fine words’ by putting pressure on the pensions authority to ditch its shares in the industry.

Kate Stott, from the South Yorkshire Fossil Free campaign group, said: “Two years ago Sheffield City Council resolved not to invest in fossil fuels and committed to not allow fracking on council-owned land.

“It is shocking to find out that despite these fine words the council, through SYPA, is actually investing the pension funds of council employees in the fracking industry.

“Fracking is threatening communities in and around Sheffield as well as fuelling climate change across the globe.

“As the fracking industry tries to get a foothold in our region, it is crucial that Sheffield councillors take a clear stand against fracking and use their influence to ensure that SYPA divests from the companies responsible.”

SYPA has holdings in more than 40 fossil fuel companies, including Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil, according to the report compiled by 350.org, Platform and Friends of the Earth.

George Graham, SYPA’s fund director, said: “While the authority has recognised the risk that is posed by climate change, its primary duty is to achieve the best possible financial return across a diversified portfolio of assets.

“We continually review the assets in which we are invested and have begun to move our portfolios in a lower carbon direction.

“Disinvestment in any particular type of asset for whatever reason is a decision for elected politicians and will be considered as part of the review of the Authority’s Investment Strategy.”

Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield councils pointed out that SYPA is a separate legal body over which they have no control, but that the pensions authority’s policy was to invest ethically.

Councillor Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and development at Sheffield Council, said he was proud of Sheffield’s ‘strong’ stance on fracking.

He added that he wanted SYPA to move away from investing in fossil fuels for moral and financial reasons, and said the council would work with it to achieve this.