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The chair of the UK's largest local government pension scheme has defended its climate credentials, saying she is 'tired of all the constant attacks from environmental warriors'.

Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) chair Brenda Warrington, who is also the leader of Tameside council, was speaking during a debate over a motion she tabled for the town hall to declare a climate emergency.

The GMPF has come under fire from environmental groups including Fossil Free Manchester, who says that the scheme has more than a billion pounds invested in fossil fuels globally.

Green Councillor for Ashton Waterloo, Lee Huntbach, spoke on the motion that had praised the GMPF for being the 'largest investor in renewable energy and energy efficiency'.

But he said: "It’s also the largest local government pension investor in fossil fuels, and continues to invest in companies that also are involved in fracking.

“This is in essence investing in the fires and floods which have and which will continue to damage our local environment."

He added that 'fiduciary duty' meant taking account of warnings about the risk of such ongoing investments.

A sign at a climate change protest outside the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (Image: Fossil Free GM)

“The motion for me essentially continues as business as usual and allows the can to be kicked down the road without first checking whether that road is a dead end," Coun Huntbach concluded.

And Conservative Stalybridge South Coun Liam Billington said that the pension fund was 'heavily invested' in fossil fuels, and questioned how many holdings it had in Australian mining companies.

“There has been a lot of talk about being a green pension fund, having green summits, carbon literacy training, but that is just a lot of hot air," he added.

But responding at the meeting, Councillor Warrington said: “I get a little bit tired of all the constant attacks on the pension scheme coming from various people, environmental warriors, call them what you will.

“Because it’s not the fault of the pension scheme that we’ve got a climate emergency.

“I accept that the pension scheme with its powerful position in terms of the investment market can actually have an influence but what you’re choosing to ignore or either not be aware of, is that the pension scheme does in fact influence the investments that are made via the kind of shares that it has."

She told councillors that 'over half a billion pounds' of pension fund money has been 'ploughed into' schemes like biomass assets and the Clyde wind farm, and £100m has been invested in the East Anglia south west rail franchise.

Coun Warrington added: “We’ve signed up to a responsible investment policy which obviously is looking at climate change amongst other things, but part of that is we have signed up to this ‘just transition’ - we cannot do things overnight.

“Certainly the market won’t allow us and it is just is not feasible or possible.

"At the end of the day we are doing an awful lot in the pension scheme and I do wish people would stop choosing to ignore all of the good work that is actually being done."

Councillors voted to declare a ‘climate emergency’ that requires urgent action, and to make the council’s operations net-zero carbon in line with the commitment to do so across Greater Manchester by 2038.

Read full article on Manchester

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