British lawmakers demand their pension fund divests fossil fuels

LONDON (Reuters) - A third of British lawmakers called on Wednesday for their 700 million pound ($885 million) parliamentary pension fund to divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies to address the climate change “emergency”.

Britain's Green Party MP Caroline Lucas speaks at a news conference held by The People's Vote in London, Britain, January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, religious groups and universities have sold oil, gas and coal stocks in recent years because of their impact on climate change.

Britain’s parliament declared a symbolic climate change “emergency” this month. Although it has no direct consequences for policy, it was seen as a nod to increasingly vocal activist movements demanding change.

Globally, more than 1,000 funds with assets in excess of $8.7 trillion have made divestment commitments, including Norway’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest.

“The climate emergency demands that all pension funds divest from fossil fuels and invest in positive solutions to the climate crisis,” British Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said.

A third of the 650 serving members of parliament (MP) from different parties and 29 former MPs have been calling on Britain’s Parliamentary Pension Fund since 2014 to disclose its investments in carbon-intensive industries and commit to phasing out fossil fuel investments.

The fund holds around 11.7 million pounds of shares in oil major BP and nearly 11 million pounds in Royal Dutch Shell.

Activists on Tuesday disrupted BP’s annual shareholder meeting, a day after protesters blockaded the entrance to its London headquarters, demanding it end all new oil and gas exploration.

Speaking at a debate in parliament on Wednesday, former energy secretary Ed Davey said opposition Labour Party plans to nationalize energy infrastructure would not aid a low-carbon transition.

“It would be the wrong approach, delay action and not enable us to (use) the power of capitalism through its market mechanisms and innovation. We need to make capitalism our servant not our master,” the Liberal Democrat MP told fellow lawmakers.

Labour has laid out plans this month to re-nationalize utilities, who have hit back saying it would lead to higher costs for taxpayers and a slower move to clean energy.

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Alexander Smith and Andrew Cawthorne