MORE than 70 prominent civil society leaders - including MPs, NGO directors, faith leaders and local councillors - have signed an open letter calling for the West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) to divest in fossil fuels.

28 Bradford councillors including Kevin Warnes and Martin Love, (Shipley, Green)and 2 Bradford MPs backed the call.

The letter was in response to a Telegraph and GOV.UK article where Pensions Minister Guy Opperman argued that investors with environmental concerns should hold onto their stocks in oil and gas companies so that they can “nudge, cajole or vote firms towards lower-carbon business practices.”

In response, prominent civil society leaders signed an open letter criticising Mr Opperman, writing that there are “clear moral, scientific and financial arguments for fossil fuel divestment”.

The signees feel fossil fuel companies work against international efforts to tackle global heating, claiming "for every £1 invested by fossil fuel majors, over 95p ends up in further expansion of oil and gas reserves that are incompatible with a Net Zero trajectory".

In Westminster, 360 serving and former cross party MPs have backed phasing out fossil fuel investments from the Parliamentary Pension Fund, including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, DEFRA Minister Rebecca Pow and Committee on Climate Change Chair Lord Deben.

The letter states: "Mr Opperman's assertion that collaboration through investor engagement can turn fossil fuel majors into low-carbon companies is not borne out by evidence. Investor pressure has never reshaped any company’s core business and cannot transform an entire sector of powerful multinationals."

Other local authorities across the country have divested in fossil fuels, the campaigners said, including Lambeth, Islington, Newcastle City and Merseyside.

In response to the calls, WYPF said that it does "not believe that divesting from companies or excluding specific industrial sectors will encourage those companies or industries to act in a responsible manner".

It also said that the fund "instead works with companies in which it holds shares in order to promote improved sustainability, more effective planning for a lower carbon environment, and more detailed environmental reporting".

The fund, which said it will continue to act as a "responsible investor", said it had been actively engaging with companies for many years on environmental issues, adding that engagement has "intensified" since the Paris COP21 Agreement was signed in 2015.