Corbyn to make politicians pensions greener

This week, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell signed the pledge for the Fossil Free UK campaign to Divest Parliament, writes Joe Walsh

The Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund is the pension scheme for current and former MPs. It is a £612m fund in total with multi millions invested in fossil fuel companies like Royal Shell and BP. Other firms in the top 20 holdings include Rio Tinto, British American Tobacco and tax avoiding tech firms Amazon, Google and Apple as well as Jersey offshore unit trusts.

The divestment campaign is supported by 100 MPs from different parties, including Caroline Lucas (Green Party) and Zac Goldsmith (Conservative). Whilst this is a significant number of MPs publically supporting the campaign, it does not align with the interests of the current British government and there is no working group in Parliament on this issue.

This movement started from Pennsylvanian students campaigning in solidarity with coal miners five years ago and has grown to the point that in September 2017, the British TUC passed a relevant climate change motion proposed by the Bakers’ union.

McDonnell and Corbyn’s support comes weeks after comrades in Young Labour proposed and passed a complementary motion supported by Socialist Resistance members. In 2017, the most important support for this movement is at a grassroots campaigning level, with various degrees of co-ordination nationally and with probably hundreds or thousands of activists and supporters in the UK

This development can be used to facilitate specific ecosocialist demands for the labour movement in the medium-term. This could range from reinvesting the total fund in to a National Investment Bank with an ecosocialist mandate or for minimal shock reinvesting the multi-millions of pounds as national bonds in offshore wind farms or loaned to local councils and social housing associations for fixed-returns.

Ecosocialists should question where to keep their own finances in the current British capitalist system but there are few suitable options, we have elements of cooperative and mutual banking which are limited and underdeveloped in this country.  Europe has green capitalism here also in various forms as online retail banks and with other large public and private funds investing in our new infrastructure, the British government is missing an opportunity here and could benefit from leadership in this area.

An interesting financial product that any ethical investor should consider are Self-Invested Personal Pensions; arguably a version of democratic capitalism with all the associated risks, where investors get to choose where their pensions are held, this could be used as a way for politicians to align finances with their values independent from the interests of the government and the fund manager.

Supporters should lobby their elected representatives to back the Divest Parliament campaign and make specific demands for reinvestment in key areas.

At a local level, grassroots campaigns aimed at several key influential councils who control the Local Government Pension Scheme funds would yield most financially. Specific Northern and Scottish regions would yield most financial gains as well as large capital investments from local authorities in London and the south. Nationally there is £16bn of public money invested in fossil fuels out of a total fund of £295bn. For detailed information, you can read the joint report from Friends of the Earth, Platform London, Community Reinvest and called ‘Councils: Fuelling the Fire’ this is just another branch of the government’s “magic money tree” which should be used further.

In the long-term ecosocialists in Britain should co-ordinate efforts in the labour movement and TUC to campaign for a Just Transition industrial strategy.


1 Comment

  1. From FoE Scotland:

    Register here:

    Saturday 20 January, 11am – 4.30pm, Quaker Meeting House, 38 Elmbank Crescent, Glasgow G2 4PS
    Ticketed (free) event

    Join the fight to free Scotland from its harmful investments and relationships with fossil fuel companies!

    We know that Scottish council pension funds and institutions have billions invested in fossil fuels – the industry most responsible for climate change. That’s why we will bring together people from across Scotland for a Divestment Training Day on Saturday January 20th in Glasgow.

    You will learn how to lobby your MP, MSP, Councillor or university on climate change and divestment. We’ll be putting into practice the best techniques and strategies to convince your top targets to get behind a clean energy future and divest funds from fossil fuels.

    In a packed agenda you can expect to:
    Meet others who are campaigning for a fossil free future in Scotland and learn about the various campaigns taking place.
    Learn, discuss and practise techniques for successful lobbying on divestment and climate change.
    Participate in skill-share sessions focused on building a strong team and community outreach around your campaign; knowing how to work the local and national press to amplify the stories behind and progress of your campaign; and campaign strategy for planning and running an effective campaign.
    Meet, join or help start a local divestment group in your area.
    To help us plan for catering and workshops, please book your free tickets in advance (link at top of this reply)
    Lunch will be provided for free (vegetarian/vegan) and refreshments will be available throughout the day. Please advise us of any other dietary requirements in advance by emailing

    We don’t want travel costs to prohibit attendance for people on low incomes, so please email if you need any help with travel costs. The venue is fully wheelchair accessible.

    Thanks and looking forward to seeing you there,

    Friends of the Earth Scotland

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