Unison members, pensioners and other campaigners protested in Droylsden last week outside a meeting of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF).
They claim the Fund is persistently ignoring the calls of Fund members and Unison representatives to get rid of its £1.6 billion climate-damaging investments in fossil fuels. Brandishing a crocheted fire extinguisher, protesters ‘put out the flames’ caused by fossil fuel companies and reminded the Fund that local action is urgent.
Gale Blackburn, a Unison rep to the Fund said “Unison’s position is in favour of divestment, which requires the Fund to move away from investment with fossil fuel companies. There is no actual plan for GMPF to move to net zero and fund leaders will not change their investment strategy despite repeated calls from representatives of pension fund members. Where is the accountability?”
Unison member Sam O’Brien adds "Waiting for Shell to become green is like waiting for hell to freeze. Engaging with fossil fuel companies has failed. GMPF should follow the lead of the Church of England, the University of Manchester and many others and begin to divest immediately. As international discussions on climate-change at COP28 begin this week, divesting from fossil fuels is a powerful local action that we want GMPF to take for all our sakes.”
Campaigners point to data released last month showing that the GM fund has by far the highest level of investments in fossil fuel companies compared to other local government pension funds. GMPF pensioner Joan Bennett said “Other local government pension funds like Lambeth, Cardiff and Islington have called for divestment so there is no reason why Greater Manchester should not do the same. GMPF has a net zero target of 2050. That’s far too late. Greater Manchester councils and the GM Combined Authority all have net zero target of 2038 or earlier so the Fund is out of step with public authorities in the region. The GMPF managers need to stop shirking their responsibility and wake up to the climate emergency”.