By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
Climate campaigners disrupted a Nottinghamshire County Council pensions meeting this morning over concerns about where the authority invests its funds.
The meeting at County Hall, West Bridgford, was stopped for more than ten minutes as members of Extinction Rebellion and Divest Notts chanted and played drums before hanging a banner down from the public gallery.
Around 15 people disrupted the meeting during the ‘climate action plan’ item – over claims that the public’s money is “being used for further extraction of oil, gas and coal from the earth”.
The chair, councillor Eric Kerry (Con) said banners were not allowed and adjourned the meeting. The meeting was later continued in another room.
The environmental groups claim the council is using the pension fund to invest millions of pounds in fossil fuel companies.
The council responded by saying it is commitment to making greener investments and is working hard to strengthen its approach to environmental issues.
Protesters said they demand “clear targets from the Committee to align the Pension Fund with the COP26 goal of limiting global warming to the relatively safe level of 1.5 degrees Celsius”.
They cite the fact that the council declared a climate emergency earlier this year.
Rachel Adams, who retired from her post as Public Health Manager at the County Council in 2017 and is a Pension beneficiary said: “The County Council must take this emergency seriously. I ask (council leader) Ben Bradley how he will live with more forest fires, heat waves and flooding? How will his government deal with migration from countries where no food grows? We must Keep 1.5 Alive. Anything less is terrifying.”
Former head teacher Carl Braithwaite, 53, said: “It is crazy that we are still investing in oil, coal and gas knowing what we know about the climate crisis. These people are supposed to represent us but are playing a part in putting our children’s futures at risk.”
John Balson, 62, Mechanical Engineer added: “I’m staggered that the Pension Committee is persisting in leaving our money in these toxic investments. I’m absolutely certain that the people of Nottinghamshire would be appalled if they knew their pension fund was propping up the same companies that caused this mess – and were fully aware of what they were doing – when do they get a say about where their money is?”
Councillor Eric Kerry, Chairman of the Pension Fund, said: “Listening to debates at COP26, we feel that we are on the right foot when it comes to the environment.
“We have just appointed our first Environment Ambassador, Councillor Mike Adams, who will look at how we work as an organisation and how we can improve our green credentials.
“We are up for the challenge of getting cleaner, greener investments in our portfolio. We are investing in our infrastructure to achieve this and that includes a significant proportion of clean energy investments.
“Whilst doing this we will ensure that we pay the future pensions of our 145,000 members.”