NI council urges end to fossil fuel investments
A council has become the first in NI to call for its workers' pension fund to divest from fossil fuels.
Newry Mourne and Down voted in favour of the move on Monday night.
The motion called on fund managers to withdraw millions of pounds invested in oil and gas companies in five years.
The NI Local Government Superannuation Committee runs the pension fund for 118,000 public sector workers like civil servants, teachers and council employees.
Campaigners have claimed it has around £155m directly invested in companies like BP and gas firm Centrica - with a further £193m indirectly invested in fossil fuel interests.
The committee has previously declined to divest from such companies saying it would lose influence as a voting shareholder and because it had a responsibility to ensure a good return on workers' pension investment.
It also said that fossil fuels were a small part of the overall pension pot of £7bn.
It has previously said that rather than divestment, cutting demand for fossil fuels would be a more effective way of cutting carbon emissions.
The council motion was presented by Alliance councillor Patrick Brown.
It was supported by Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and the Ulster Unionist Party and was carried 27 for, none against, with four abstentions.
A recent UN report said there were only 12 years left for authorities to take decisive action on climate change in order to comply with a key target on rising temperatures.
Campaign group Fossil Free South Down welcomed the council decision.
"We are delighted that our local representatives are taking this issue seriously and have passed the motion," said spokesperson V'cenza Cirefice.
"We hope it will encourage other councils to do the same and build momentum to stop the Local Government Pension Scheme for Northern Ireland investing in fossil fuels".
Activists have been running a campaign to encourage all local councils to take pension investments out of fossil fuels.
Deirdre Duff of Friends of the Earth said the fossil fuel industry had five times more reserves than could be used if the world was to meet climate change targets.
She said she was "delighted" with the position adopted by Newry Mourne and Down Council.