A PENSION fund managed by Oxfordshire County Council will review whether it should pull money out of fossil fuel companies later this year.

More than 200 employers and their staff contribute to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) in Oxfordshire. In 2016, it was valued at £1,842m.

Activists have pleaded with the council to divest from fossil fuel companies so it is not responsible for pollution and ongoing climate change.

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The council has so far resisted from doing so – but will talk about whether it should at a ‘workshop’ in the autumn.

A council officer said it would be better to investigate whether it could work with companies to ensure they become less polluting rather than refusing to work with them.

Sean Collins, the council’s service manager in pension services, said the authority would ‘lose its voice’ if it were to divest from polluting companies.

He said: “If you do not change the demand or the working practices of other companies, there will always be others prepared to buy part of a fossil fuel company because there will always be demand for their product. If you divest, someone’s going to buy it when there’s demand there.”

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He added: “We are still going to have cruise ships, planes and the main forms of transport dependent on fossil fuels. If they are not prepared to change then fossil fuel companies don’t need to change.”

Julia Spragg, from the Fossil Free Oxfordshire group, called on the council to pull its investment in polluting companies and said it ‘must show some leadership’.

She said: “We honestly believe that the evidence is very, very strong: that moving investment from fuel and gas companies – the drivers of climate change – do not result in financial jeopardy.”

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Councillors decided they did not want a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction. Labour councillor Mark Lygo said the forthcoming climate change workshop would look at whether the council might be a ‘critical friend’ to companies.

But Labour councillor John Sanders wanted a more radical solution – with divestment sooner. But only three of ten members of the Pension Fund Committee supported his stance.

He said: “My concern that I’ve got is that engagement is all very well but there’s no evidence of engagement. In the last two years, what have we engaged?”