To receive questions or statements on the business of the committee from town and parish councils and members of the public.
That no statements and questions were received from Town and Parish Councils nor public statements or questions.
Dr Ruth Arnold and Dr Rebecca Smith addressed the meeting on behalf of Medact (Dorset Group), a representative body of doctors, nurses and other members of the healthcare community in Dorset.
Dr Arnold and Dr Smith said the fossil fuel industry posed a serious threat to human health due to climate change. Dorset Council and BCP Council had both declared a climate emergency. Also, there was evidence to suggest that fossil free investments produced better financial returns. They believed the pension fund had investments of £141 million in fossil fuel companies and asked the Committee to commit to divestment from those investments by 2021.
The Independent Adviser felt a blanket disinvestment from the whole sector would not distinguish between those companies who were engaging on this issue and looking to make changes, and those who were not. The evidence on the impact of disinvestment on performance was not conclusive and he wondered if the pension fund was being pushed to make changes too quickly. He added that the pension fund had investments in renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar power.
Dr Smith considered engagement with companies had not worked and disinvestment sent a very powerful message. Dr Arnold felt there was no time to delay from disinvestment.
The Chairman confirmed the pension fund’s Investment Strategy Statement would be reviewed shortly and how to address the concerns raised about fossil fuel investment would form part of that review. The Independent Adviser added the main purpose of the review was to agree allocations to different asset classes, but this could be a ‘second order’ consideration.
Mark Mansley, Brunel Pension Partnership, reported that Brunel already offered a passive low carbon equity fund based on a standard ‘parent’ index, although it was more costly and more volatile than its parent index. Brunel were also developing a sustainable active equities portfolio, and took a sustainable approach to private markets too, with a strong bias to renewables, such as wind and solar power. The Independent Adviser added that the pension fund also had exposure to renewables through its investments in infrastructure funds outside of Brunel.
The Vice-Chairman questioned the basis of the £141 million investment in fossil fuels. He asked officers to check this figure, as it was necessary to have an agreed baseline to inform future discussions.
A member asked if the pension fund had any investments locally. The Independent Adviser replied that the Committee had followed a policy not to invest directly in Dorset. This was to avoid any potential for conflict between the interests of the pension fund and the other interests of Dorset’s local authorities. The Committee could choose to revisit this policy.
The Chairman thanked Dr Arnold and Dr Smith for taking the time to address the Committee.
1. That the planned review of the fund’s Investment Strategy Statement takes into consideration the pension fund’s exposure to fossil fuels.
2. That officers confirm the value of the pension fund’s exposure to fossil fuel investments.