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Councils are told: 'Divest from the social pariah of fossil fuel industry'

PUBLISHED: 19:30 23 October 2019

"Getting left behind." Divest Camden project their anti-fossil fuels message onto Camden Town Hall in Judd Street. Picture: Divest Camden

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Both Camden and Haringey councils have resisted calls to fully divest their pension funds of fossil fuel investments.

Both councils told the Ham&High they had chosen to work to reduce exposure to such investments, but had to do so carefully.

Camden Council also said it was conscious of the power it wielded as an investor to lobby for change in the operations of those in whom it invested.

Haringey who have committed to divest, and have recently upped the transfer of investment into low carbon funds said it needed to safeguard its employees' cash.

Asked why Camden had resisted calls to divest fully, the town hall's environment chief Cllr Adam Harrison said; "The pension committee understands it's important. We have got less investments in fossil fuels and they are decreasing.

"Divestment is important but decarbonisation throughout the operations of all our investments is as important." He said the council wanted to influence behaviour of those it invested in.

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His Haringey counterpart Cllr Kirsten Hearn emphasised the importance of investing the council's pension fund prudently to protect the interests of its staff, but reiterated the council was committed to eventual divestment.

Cllr Hearn said: "We have done significant divestment and I know the committee are working hard to make positive investments."

Divestment has been a demand of environmental groups for some time. Finnian Murtagh of the Divest Camden campaign group said the group "welcome the reduction in investments" but that it wasn't enough. He said: "It also doesn't give the symbolic gesture that the divestment movement demands. It's looking for public bodies and institutions to say this industry is a social pariah and it needs to be treated as such."

Divest Camden also said it had not seen evidence that the strategy of engaging with investees had "any meaningful results".

Both the Green Party's mayoral candidate Sian Berry and the Muswell Hill Sustainability Group have called on the council's to do more and do it quicker.

Sian told this newspaper: "They need to stop resisting doing divestment as quickly as possible - it has to be one of the key things."

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