Jack Sargeant MS

We will hear a lot over the next few weeks about the need to act in a bold manner to avert climate change disaster. This is absolutely right! It is also right to say that the Welsh Government alone does not have all the policy levers to solve this. Pension regulations are not devolved, but this does not mean we cannot take a view nor find other ways of getting the huge public sector pension funds to disinvest from fossil fuel investments.

As many of you will be aware, local government pension funds in Wales invest significant sums in companies drilling for oil and gas. Fossil fuel disinvestment means moving money out of these investments, whether that’s in the form of stocks and shares or bonds. There is a growing movement to make this change and we successfully campaigned to disinvest the fund of the Senedd Members’ pension scheme. I support calls to disinvest local government pension schemes and believe the Welsh Government must show strong leadership to encourage and help make this possible.

One way of doing this is to include pension fund investments in targets for the public sector to be carbon neutral by 2030. This would be a bold ambition and set the unmistakable tone that we recognise change needs to happen, and fast. It would also send a message to those that create the investment products the funds purchase. This sounds small but is absolutely crucial; these products need to exist if funds are going to disinvest.

The campaign to disinvest local government pensions has already done so much and I pay tribute to organisations like Friends of the Earth Cymru who have led this campaign and individuals like Cllr Ed Stubbs who successfully passed a disinvestment motion at Cardiff Council and to Jenny Rathbone and Mike Hedges MS who did so much on the Senedd scheme.

Now however, it is time to step up the progress, and for that to happen we need political leadership that, in my view, must come from the top. Councils of all political stripes have not always been fast enough to grasp the imperative nature of this and that is why I want to place a duty on them to act. Investment managers have also not understood the need for the creation of new investment products, but that will change if we send this clear signal.

Time is one thing we do not have a lot of, and I am pleased that we have real focus on the need for change and I welcome the Welsh Government’s announcement on the steps it will take for Wales to become carbon neutral, but this seemingly small additional step could reinvest billions from products that are part of the problem to investments that are part of the solution.

I will be speaking to Welsh Government ministers over the next few weeks with this simple call; pension funds must be part of the 2030 targets. In the meantime, I would like to speak directly to my colleagues in local government — you do not need to wait to 2030 push for you pension fund to disinvest. Other authorities are doing it and funds have already moved away from coal, we now need that to be oil and gas as well.

The move from coal demonstrates that where there is a will there is a way, let’s disinvest!

Jack Sargeant Senedd Member for Alyn and Deeside

The Fabian Society in Wales