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Derbyshire County Council defends pension investment strategy following protest

Thursday, November 4th, 2021 2:24pm

By Christina Massey, Local Democracy Reporter @_ChrisMassey

Protest outside Derbyshire County Council's offices. Picture by Christina Massey.

Derbyshire County Council has defended its pension fund investment strategy after protesters hit out at the authority for investing in oil companies.

Campaigners from Divest Derbyshire and Derbyshire Pensioners Action Group were at County Hall yesterday (November 3) protesting over the investment of £145m of pension fund money in fossil fuel companies.

The authority said the amount invested in oil and gas companies was around 2.5 per cent of it’s overall portfolio, which exceeds £5billion, however this figure has reduced in recent years and substantial steps had been taken to invest in global sustainable equities and renewable energy funds.

A spokesman for the authority said: “The pension fund’s Climate Strategy was approved last year following consultation with stakeholders, which involved writing to the fund’s members asking for their views. 

“The strategy sets out support for the Paris Agreement and includes clear targets for reducing the carbon emissions of the whole investment portfolio and for increasing investment in low carbon and sustainable investments. 

“The fund is making good progress in achieving these targets.”

The Responsible Investment Framework was approved at the time, setting out the fund’s approach to engaging with companies to influence their behaviour and enhance their value. 

“Collaborative and co-ordinated engagement with other like-minded investors has the potential to drive positive changes to companies’ business models as they adapt for the transition to a low carbon economy,” the spokesman added.

In response to campaigners’ claim that fossil fuels were no longer a ‘safe investment’, the spokesman said: “As the administering authority for Derbyshire Pension Fund, we have a duty to comply with statutory investment regulations which require the fund to hold a broad spread of investments in order to control risk.

“The pension fund invests in a wide range of investment assets to support the payment of pension benefits and we would like to reassure members of the fund that their pensions are guaranteed and based primarily on length of service and salary.

“Consideration is given to the issue of climate change as part of the evaluation of all investment risks associated with the fund’s diverse portfolio.”

They added that the pension fund’s climate-related disclosures report outlines the steps being taken to manage climate-related risk.

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