Babergh Green councillor quits committee over fossil fuel investments

Babergh opposition Green group leader Robert Lindsay Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Babergh opposition Green group leader Robert Lindsay Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

An opposition Babergh councillor has quit a committee over fossil fuel investments - fearing they put more than £11million of public funds at risk.

Babergh District Council’s audit committee recommended the coalition cabinet pushes its fund managers to take into account environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations in their investments - and withdraw funds from investments which didn’t address carbon reduction priorities.

Last week, the cabinet agreed to monitor investments and look to make changes at the appropriate time as long as the financial situation allowed.

Robert Lindsay, from the opposition Green group, said the council shouldn’t hold any investments in fossil fuel extraction firms if it wants to meet its commitment to net zero carbon by 2030, which it made when declaring a climate emergency.

He also highlighted that the cabinet’s decision had not defined when an appropriate time to sell those investments would be.

He has resigned from the audit committee in protest.

But the administration dismissed claims it would put £11m at risk, and said it needed to make changes to investments in a way which would not lose money.

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Cllr Lindsay said: “The facts are UK public pension funds have lost £2billion on their oil investments in the past four years.

“This year, oil and gas companies will make profits as energy prices rocket but these losses can’t be recovered.

“Most City investors now agree with former Bank of England governor Mark Carney that all fossil fuel extraction stocks are now high-risk investments that will plummet in value as renewables take the place of fossil fuel. This will leave Babergh sitting on heavy losses."

Simon Barrett, Conservative cabinet member for finance who was on the audit committee in May when the recommendation was made, said £6m was in a property investment, while two tranches of £2m each were in pooled investments.

“The decision we took was that where we have a choice going forward we would go for the zero carbon option, but won’t do it at the expense of losing money to the council and residents,” he said. “We will take the responsible action in a timely manner."