Bedford council agrees to end fossil fuel investments for pension funds

A member of the public told councillors he is "genuinely terrified" for his future over inaction on climate change

Friday, 14th January 2022, 11:04 am
Updated Friday, 14th January 2022, 11:26 am
Bedford Borough Council agreed to call on the Bedfordshire Pension Fund to disinvest its holdings in fossil fuels

A member of the public told a council meeting that he is "genuinely terrified" for his future and felt "betrayed" by the lack of action taken by every single level of government on climate change.

Ahead of a debate later in the meeting on a climate change motion from Green councillor Ben Foley (Castle Ward), Isaac Beevor, from Divest Bedfordshire, asked Bedford Borough councillors on Wednesday (January 12) to support the divestment of the Bedfordshire Pension Fund and the Borders Coast Partnership

"I'm genuinely terrified for my future," he said.

"But actually, what seems to be worse is that I, and if I can, speak on behalf of my generation, feel betrayed and continue to feel betrayed by the lack of action taken by every single level of government.

"One of the biggest worldwide impacts we can have is to divest our money from fossil fuel companies, who, despite the best efforts of people like councillor McMurdo, and I mean that sincerely, are the very companies who are continuing to expand oil gas and even coal production.

"And while the largest pension funds in the world, ABP, the Dutch pension fund for civil servants and teachers agrees.

"And 18 miles down the road, Luton Borough Council also agrees.

"What I'm asking, is please don't betray us tonight, will Bedford Borough Council support the divestment of the Bedfordshire Pension Fund and the Borders Coast Partnership," he pleaded.

Councillor Doug McMurdo (Independent, Sharnbrook Ward), the chair of the council's Pension Fund Committee, said he would not discuss any possible outcome of the vote later in the meeting, in which he did not take part.

"I think you've actually said that we agree on most things, except for divestment, so divestment is a last resort.

"We firmly believe, and many of us do believe, that being at the table with British Petroleum (BP), Royal Dutch Shell, we can create a situation of influence, and I'm very happy to share where we have seen some benefits.

"We have responded to Luton Borough Council formally on behalf of Bedfordshire Pension Fund, we take the matter very seriously."

Councillor McMurdo said that one of the largest contributors in Bedfordshire is Luton Airport - adding that a divestment in aviation could have a "devastating" impact on the local economy.

"So we aim and sincerely aim to look at a fair and a just transition in a timely and appropriate fashion," he said.

The motion put forward by councillor Foley, and its amendment from councillor Jake Sampson (LibDems, Newnham Ward), included a call for the council to write to Bedfordshire Pension Fund and the Border to Coast Pension Partnership to ask them to remove all funds from fossil fuels in the shortest possible time.

During the debate on the motion, the leader of the Labour Group, councillor Sue Oliver (Kempston North Ward) said: "This council takes its responsibility to address climate change extremely seriously.

"We all agree that we need to divest from investment in fossil fuels as soon as possible."

The motion was carried.