Friday, March 05, 2010

Things I never expected to hear myself saying, part 1

"This isn't about ethics, or climate change or the environment, this is about primary fiduciary duty."


Me, a week or two back, in pensions committee, arguing that we should instruct our fund managers to support the BP and Shell Shareholder motions going to their AGMs, which call for them to further consider and justify the economic as well as environmental grounds for investing in tar sand oils.

Tar sands (or oil sands) are among the world’s dirtiest fuels: their extraction produces on average three times the greenhouse gases of conventional oil. The pollution, deforestation and wildlife disturbance associated with tar sands developments also threaten the traditional livelihoods, health and wellbeing of indigenous communities. In addition, serious questions have been raised about the financial risks of oil sands. It's far from clear that they represent a prudent investment.

Fair Pensions is campaigning alongside a number of other organisations, including Greenpeace, to encourage pension funds to support the shareholder motions which are going to the BP and Shell AGMs in April and May. You can find out more about their campaign, and contact your pension fund to ask them to support the motions, by going to their Counting the Cost website.

As a member of Lewisham's Pension Committee, we are regularly reminded by officers that a 1% drop in pension fund value equates to having to find £1m from the Council's budget to meet its pension liabilities and that we can be held personally responsible if we go against legal advice and the fund loses money (don't think it works the other way round). And I've gradually learnt over the past few years that talking about ethics gets you nowhere with fund managers and gets lawyers very alarmed and reminding you of your primary fiduciary duty - our main responsibility is to maximise profits for the pension fund and sod the consequences. So a campaign that encourages pension fund members to challenge fund managers on their own terms, rather than 'woolly ethics' was music to my ears.

In this case, with regards to the tar sands motions, officers advised us to delay making a decision until a report on the tar sands issue has been published by the Local Authority Pension Funds Forum (LAPFF), of which Lewisham is a member. If the LAPFF recommends supporting the motions, then Lewisham is likely to do so, although the decision has ultimately been delegated to the Exective Director for Resources, as the committee won't be meeting again before the AGMs. If all the local authority pension funds that are members of the LAPFF support the shareholder motions, this will send a clear and powerful message to the management of BP and Shell.

Do take a look at the Counting the Cost website for details of how you can support the campaign.


Mango said...

Let's see how you Greenies deal with providing power to the poor in South Africa.

Do you agree with the UK blocking a loan for the construction of a coal power plant?

Yes or No?

The SA Minister says:

"It is regrettable.. that . . . developed countries and [a] very small group of NGOs in South Africa are putting their environmental concerns, which can't be immediately addressed, above the economic needs of South Africa and our need to grow the economy so that all the people benefit."

As a Green Party member, are you pleased and proud to be depriving the poorest people in Africa of electricity?

Let's see how your Green principles survive this brush with reality.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Mango, I do agree with blocking funding for new coal fired power stations-I'd rather it was invested in renewables and energy efficiency measures.

Mango said...


So, you advocate that the dirt-poor and energy poor South Africans to live in the dark, burning sooty oil lamps instead of getting regular electricity from coal power to satisfy your fetish for 'renewables and energy efficiency measures.'

As I've always suspected, the Western Green movement is truly the enemy of the Global Poor of the developing world.

Development and industrialisation (with appropriate environmental safeguards) is what the world’s poor needs.

Not hysterical ‘the world will end in 40 days’ climate nonsense from Westerners who already have all the material benefits that the rest of the developing world also need.

Anonymous said...

Mango, my friend, the Greens are making a "land grab" for the third world. Their aim is to use your land, and once they have yours ours too, to make the world's largest variety of High-Definition nature programmes. These will be shown via the new atmosprojector. The Earth's Atmos Projection System (APES) will beam images from a constellation of satellites into the night skies of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres each night, as we rest in our green mud huts. The programmes, where we the people can watch a beflippered member of the English upper class ram a microphone up the left nostril of a slightly bemused Gorilla, will be paid for by a 100% tax on blissful days spent reversing the green archaeological damage caused by 10,000 years of human civilization.