Many schools and sixth-form colleges across the UK are unwittingly helping to fund climate change through their contributions to Local Government Pension Schemes. These Pension Schemes have £16 billion pounds of people’s pension monies invested in giant oil, coal and gas companies like Exxon and BP. By taking action in their schools, students, parents, teachers and staff can help to break the hold these companies currently have on economies and governments around the world, and make way for a just transition to renewable energy.
Burning fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) is the main driver of global warming. Just one hundred fossil fuel producers – including Exxon, Shell, BP and Total – account for 71% of all gloal industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. These companies - who are still actively looking for more fossil fuels to fill our atmosphere with carbon for years to come – are arguably the major obstacle preventing us from tackling climate change effectively.
Yet many schools and sixth-form colleges around the UK are inadvertently investing in these companies through contributions to a Local Government Pension Scheme. These schemes provide pensions for many non-teaching staff in schools and sixth-form colleges across the UK. For example, where I live in East Sussex, a simple Freedom of Information Act request (made using the free easy-to-use web-site whatdotheyknow.com) revealed that over 40 local schools and colleges together contribute at least £9.8 million a year to the East Sussex Pension Fund (ESPF). The ESPF is estimated to have around £150m of local people’s pension monies invested in fossil fuel companies.
Since 2011 a global divestment movement has been campaigning to get churches, universitites and pension funds to sell their investments in fossil fuel companies (‘divestment from fossil fuels’) and reinvest the money elsewhere.
This is a tried-and-tested method of creating social change. For example, it was successfully used as a weapon in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.
So far, over 1,000 institutions, with assets valued at over $8 trillion, have made some form of divestment commitment – causing serious headaches for the fossil fuel companies.
And if you’re a student, teacher, parent of staff member at a UK school you can be a part of this!
What you can do
- Find out how much your Local Government Pension Scheme has invested in fossil fuels. You can do that here: https://gofossilfree.org/uk/fuellingthefire/
- Use https://www.whatdotheyknow.com to request a list of which schools and colleges make contributions to your Local Government Pension Scheme.
- If your school is on the list then set up a campaign to get your school to back the divestment of your Local Government Pension Scheme from fossil fuels. A first place to start might be a petition that students, parents, teachers and staff could sign. Campaigners at Fossil Free UK can help you: https://gofossilfree.org/uk/ and put you in contact with any other local divestment campaigners in your area.