Investment In Fossil Fuels And Tobacco By MPs' Pension Fund Soars

Rachel Wearmouth
Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas

Eco-campaigners have reacted with fury after it emerged fossil fuel and tobacco company investments by MPs’ pension funds have skyrocketed.

The Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund’s (PCPF’s) cash with BP, Shell and Rio Tinto rose by £51.2m in 2017 - an increase of 41%. 

Money invested with British American Tobacco also climbed, by £17.4m (31%), over the same period. 

The news comes after 160 MPs, including Green MP Caroline Lucas, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, demanded fund managers “show leadership on climate action” by turning their backs on fossil fuel and tobacco firms.

How much of the Parlimentary Pension Fund is invested in fossil fuels
How much cash is invested with British American Tobacco

The cash invested has also risen as a proportion of the overall fund, from 29% to 34%, despite the fund agreeing to include “environmental risks” in its investment strategy.  

PCPF began including the top 20 investments in its annual report after years of campaigning by a cross-party group of MPs, led by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas.

She said: “The prehistoric attitudes of the pension fund managers/trustees have meant the amount of money invested in fossil fuels has gone up, exactly when it should be shrinking.

“It really is rank hypocrisy for them to include environmental risks in their investment strategy, yet pour more money into the very firms who are paving the way for global climate breakdown. 

“Parliament should be leading the fight on tackling climate change - yet our very own pension scheme is stuck in the dark ages and lagging behind the many funds who are ditching fossil fuels and seeking out alternatives. We need answers from our fund on this issue - and we need to see a clear plan from our fund to how it will phase out fossil fuel investments over the coming years.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who did not sign the Divest Parliament pledge, has been pushing forward a green agenda in Government, which includes a clean air strategy and a bid to eradicate single-use plastics.

A spokesman for the fund said that “in common with most large diversified investors” it had investments with “a very large number of companies and sectors”. 

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has been pushing forward a green agenda in Government

But campaigners said it was not good enough for the MPs’ fund to simply fall in line with others. 

Tytus Murphy, of Divest Parliament, which ran the campaign to get MPs’ support on the issue, said: “People look to Parliament to lead the way on issues like climate change - yet we’re seeing the management of MPs’ pensions lagging well behind the leaders on this issue.

“If MPs are serious about protecting our planet they’ll be getting onto their pension fund this week demanding a change in direction, and urging them to stop fuelling the fire of climate change by investing in fossil fuel forms.”

Beau Sullivan from the ShareAction campaign added: “Not only is this move morally questionable, it’s also nonsensical from a financial perspective.

“Pension savings, which are long-term investments, are highly vulnerable to the long-term financial risks of climate change.” 

A spokesperson for the PCPF said: “In common with most large diversified investors, the PCPF currently has financial exposure to a very large number of companies and sectors.

“The decision to hold an individual share or bond in a company is made by the investment managers engaged by the PCPF.”