What emergency? Gloucestershire County Council invests £100 million of pension pot in fossil fuels

The Javelin Park incinerator near Gloucester.

By Ben Norris and Jamie O’Dell

Despite declaring a climate emergency in May 2019, alongside all other Gloucestershire councils, Gloucestershire County Council still invests £100 million of its pension pot in fossil fuels. 

At 4.4% of its pot, this sits uncomfortably above the national average of 3%, and calls into question the seriousness of the Conservative led County Council, whose environmental record contains highlights such as the Javelin Park incinerator. 

Previous reports by other outlets have warned that in continuing to support fossil fuel bodies, authorities are exposing their pension funds to unnecessary financial risk. 

Despite the GCC declaring a council emergency in May 2019 – with a commitment to being carbon neutral by 2050 – it continues to rely on fossil fuels for over four percent of its total pension fund value. 

While pension pot investment in fossil fuels has fallen from 7% since 2019, it’s still worth asking if the county council could be taking a more proactive stance on divesting from carbon.

The value of fossil fuel investments in pension pots is expected to decline as the UK moves towards cleaner sources of renewable energy, and as other pension funds divest from fossil fuels. 

Current climate safeguarding targets aim to reduce the UK’s emissions by at least 68% by 2030, with significant investments in green energy sources.

In contrast to the County Council’s approach, Stroud District Council leader Doina Cornell said: “Our alliance [Labour, Green, and Liberal Democrat] would rather disinvest but as we’re part of the larger pot of the county we find ourselves as only one small disregarded voice with little say.”

The news comes as County auditor Grant Thornton nears the end of a three-year long investigation into whether the controversial £613 million Javelin Park incinerator contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty broke public procurement rules in 2016 and therefore did not deliver value for money. 

The Stroud District Green Party called on GCC to publish the report by the council’s auditors, Grant Thornton, on whether the incinerator contract broke procurement rules, and to allow a debate on it by all elected councillors.

Green spokesperson Molly Scott Cato, a former chair of Stroud District Council’s Audit Committee, said: “If they have nothing to hide then they should not hide the auditors’ report on the incinerator contract. Transparency is essential to avoid sleaze in all levels of Government.”

When reached for comment, Gloucestershire County Council did not respond as to whether it would consider further divestment from fossil fuel funds.

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