North Yorkshire faces calls to divest from fossil fuels

Campaigners have called on North Yorkshire County Council, which is currently considering an application for fracking, to divest from fossil fuels.

The Frack Free North Yorkshire group has accused the local authority of a conflict of interest, after it claimed the North Yorkshire Pension Fund has £101m invested in fossil fuel companies and their backers.

According to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the group, the pension fund has over £15million worth of direct investments in Barclays, which owns a majority stake in Third Energy, which has a planning application for fracking currently lodged with the council.

Public Sector Energy reported last month North Yorkshire County Council missed the Government’s 16-week deadline for the application.

“The council will be deciding on Third Energy’s fracking planning application at Kirby Misperton, which if passed would directly benefit the council itself, as it has shares in Barclays and Halliburton,” said campaigner Russell Scott.

"This appears to be a clear conflict of interest and calls into question the legitimacy of the entire decision-making process.”

According to the group, the pension fund also has just £0.6million invested in renewable energy. 

It is now calling on North Yorkshire County Council to divest the £101m and reinvest in the money in “green, sustainable and socially responsible companies” instead.

In a statement, North Yorkshire County Council said: “Through its participation in the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, the fund’s engagement strategy is to push for an orderly carbon transition by requiring companies to identify and tackle carbon risks in their business models.

"The fund does have an increasing level of investment in renewable and low carbon energy production and will continue to make such investments where the risk/return profile fits the pension fund’s investment strategy."

Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, specializing in local government, transport and energy issues