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DiveST is a group of citizens that are campaigning for the divestment of local authority pension funds from fossil fuels. Divestment means the opposite of investment primarily getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical and damaging the environment. Additionally, the shift to alternative energy sources and electric vehicles means that it also does not make financial sense to invest in something that is being phased out!

Since 2012 over 1000 institutions have divested from fossil fuels, including New York City, Rockefeller Brother Fund, and Ireland. Several UK council pension funds have also divested, including the UK’s biggest pension fund, National Employment Savings Trust, plus Cardiff, Haringey, and the London Borough of Southwark pensions.

South Tyneside Council is the administering authority for the Tyne & Wear pension fund, which includes Gateshead, North Tyneside, Newcastle City, Northumberland, South Tyneside, and Sunderland council pension funds. Tyne & Wear is also part of the Borders to Coast pension pool, is one of the largest pension pools in the UK, bringing together over £45 billion investments of eleven local government pension funds. The Borders to Coast pool includes Cumbria, Durham, Teesside, North and South Yorkshire.

Currently, members of diveST are undergoing divestment strategy training sessions with Hope for the Future. Additionally, they have had a meeting with members of the South Yorkshire divestment group to share knowledge and learnings. The diveST team is also currently busy doing lots of research! As the results of the local elections are being known, this will allow the group to contact the newly elected councillors to ask them their position on climate change and continued fossil fuel investment. In conjunction, diveST is going to reach out to stakeholders and will hopefully secure the support of existing Tyne & Wear pension fund holders and Union representatives. If you are a concerned pension holder and want to be part of diveST then email

Climate Change: An Overview

The earth has warmed and cooled for hundreds and thousands of years but today, scientific research tells us that it’s warming at a rate that’s never been seen before. Fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas that we’ve been using for hundreds of years produce a gas called carbon dioxide. This gas traps the heat from the sun leading to the Greenhouse Effect.

The Greenhouse Effect means that instead of sun rays coming down to the earth and leaving later through our atmosphere they instead get trapped, meaning that the earth keeps getting warmer.

So our use of fuels like oil and coal has changed the natural way the earth warms and cools. This means that we need to change the way that we use fossil fuels in order to limit the warming of the planet. We’ve already seen the earth warm by more than one degree over the past few hundred years, and while that may sound like a good thing in some parts of the world, it’s actually pretty dangerous.

Warming can lead to all kinds of natural disasters including storms, floods, heatwaves, and droughts. In fact, even the warming we’re already seeing today has led to seas rising across the world. That’s why scientists say that we have to keep climate change to well below 2 degrees of warming by the end of this century, in order to have a chance of responding to the consequences of climate change.

So Where Do Pensions Come In?

If we can cut the amount of fossil fuels that we use and do it quickly, we may just be able to limit or even stop the damage caused by climate change. And one way to do this is through our pension funds.

It’s our money that buys corporate bonds and shares in companies producing fossil fuels like coal and oil even when alternatives like renewable energy are available. And even if we start turning off the lights when we’re not at home, or clean energy replaces fossil fuels at an even faster rate, our pension funds may continue to support these companies.

Climate change is a tragedy on the horizon for the planet

that could leave pension funds and other businesses with worthless assets if they fail to adapt"

Mike Carney, former Governor of the Bank Of England

Fossil fuel companies are driving the climate crisis and have successfully delayed action on climate change for decades. It’s time for our institutions to take a stand and cut their financial ties with fossil fuel companies

Fossil Free Europe

The logic of divestment couldn't be simpler: if it's wrong to wreck the climate, it's wrong to profit from that wreckage

Bill McKibben, Environmentailist & Writer

Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest”

Jim Yong Kim

World Bank President, 2012

Why Divest?

The Ethical Reason

The UK Government said in December 2016 that 70-75 percent of known fossil fuels would have to be left unused in order to have a 50% chance of limiting global temperature rise to below 2°C”. 

The Governor of the Bank of England has said that the action needed to keep to a 2 degree goal “would render the vast majority of existing reserves “stranded” – oil, gas and coal that will be literally unburnable”. Yet, fossil fuel companies are actively drilling for NEW reserves of coal, oil and gas over and above existing reserves; their actions are completely compatible with staying within 2 degrees

Pensions are for our future security. Climate change is one of the biggest threats to that security. On ethical grounds, pension funds should not invest in companies that are making climate change worse.

The Financial Reason

Pension fund boards have a “fiduciary duty” – to act in the best interests of the funds beneficiaries. This section sets out how “best interests” means pension funds now need to assess and act on climate risks.

Increasingly, Governments are taking stronger action on climate change. There are bumps in the road, but the direction of travel is one-way: action will increase. More and more fossil fuel “assets” will become stranded as Governments legislate on climate change and raise the price of carbon. The Paris Agreement in December 2015 is the clearest signal yet.

The Governor of the Bank of England is just the latest in a long line of financial heavyweights noting the increasing risk that fossil fuel companies are overvalued, in a world where greater action on climate is inevitable. As yet these risks have not yet been properly assessed or priced by financial regulators or the fossil fuel companies.

The Local Reason

Image by Patrick Routledge from Pixabay

South Tyneside Council has already accepted that climate change poses a significant hazard to our community. In 2019, the climate emergency motion was passed at full council. In short, this commits the council to become carbon neutral by 2030, and

using the Council's advocacy role to influence actions that promote carbon reductions, across all our communities and the region. 

Climate change will affect us all in South Tyneside. Our borough is hugged by the North Sea and the River Tyne, this means flooding is a real risk. Climate change will drive more severe storms and the coastal erosion we are seeing in Marsden will continue to get worse. 

Continuing to pump millions of pounds of our money into the fossil fuel industry is not just irresponsible, but is incompatible with the council's own goals and values.