23 March 2023
BCP Council has voted to stop investing pensions in risky fossil fuels. £41m of taxpayer-underwritten investments are now closer to being switched away.
A motion was successfully proposed by Councillor Felicity Rice, and seconded by Green Councillor Chris Rigby.
Chris Rigby wrote after the meeting: "In my speech I made reference to how we worked together in my first council meeting to agree on the climate and ecological emergency motion, and how it will change BCP for the better - and how we can end this term with another environmental win by moving 80,000 people's money out of the fossil fuel industry."
With renewables rapidly becoming the cheaper option, the bottom is inevitably going to fall out of the fossil fuel market – perhaps suddenly. At present, this would lead to a massive black hole in the Dorset County Pension Fund. This serves 80,000 local council staff and ex-staff. It’s underwritten by local taxpayers - who could be on the hook for large Council Tax hikes.
BCP Council shares its pension fund with neighbouring Dorset Council. This means for the switch away from fossils to go ahead, rural Dorset councillors will now have to agree with this vote by BCP councillors.
The Green-backed Unity Alliance which ran BCP Council after the 2019 election was moving towards switching pension investments away from fossil fuels. These are most councils’ biggest carbon emissions source.
Green Councillor Chris Rigby said in 2021 (after the Conservatives seized control of BCP): “Making 80,000 public sector pensions in Dorset dependent on long-term profits from an industry threatening a safe planetary future is not a sensible investment strategy.”
In early 2022, Green Councillors Chris Rigby and Simon Bull proposed that BCP Council should endorse the call for a global Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation treaty. 39 other councils including Los Angeles, Sydney, Toronto and Barcelona had already done so.
Chris Rigby – by day a solar energy professional - told councillors: “This doesn't mean cutting off the gas supply tomorrow, but working towards removing fossil fuels from all of our lives. Transitioning the workers in the oil and gas industry, who have got a great skillset, to more sustainable employment. Move people away from fossil fuels in everyday life. It's what we need to do, to prevent the climate crisis. We can't have a sustainable future as well as a carbon-based economy.”
Numerous other councils have ended fossil fuel investments. Some have switched directly to local, socially valuable investments.
Yet after the Conservatives seized control of BCP Council in October 2020, their Leader confirmed a strategy of "engagement" with fossil fuel companies, mostly retaining investments with them.
“No major oil, gas or coal company is on track to align their business with the Paris climate goal of limiting the global temperature rise to well below 2°C by 2050”, found the Transition Pathway Initiative in 2020.
BCP’s Conservative councillors voted down Green councillors’ proposal to endorse the call for a global Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Conor Burns, Conservative MP for Bournemouth West, was paid £40,000 a year for on-the-side “consultancy” by a firm working in the Dorset offshore oil industry, from 2011 till 2019.
The Conservative Government continues to support new drilling, flagrantly inconsistent with Net Zero. The Conservative Party has accepted at least £1.3m in donations since 2019 from climate sceptics and fossil fuel interests.
BCP's Green Councillors, Simon Bull and Chris Rigby, secured a declaration of Climate & Ecological Emergency at the very first meeting of the new BCP Council in 2019.
Simon and Chris, who represent Winton East, were part of the Unity Alliance (UA) of non-Conservative councillors, which controlled BCP Council from May 2019 until October 2020. The UA switched BCP Council to 100% renewable electricity, and published a 153-point Climate Action Plan to become Net Zero by 2030.
BCP Council was added in February 2020 to global charity CDP’s “A list” of 105 urban areas recognised for transparency and action on climate change.