THE fact that a local pension fund invests in fossil fuel companies has led to a heated debate in Bradford City Hall.

West Yorkshire Pension Fund is a pension provider for over 300,000 people, representing 423 companies, and is worth £16.3 billion.

The fund invests in a number of different companies, and in recent years there have been louder calls for it to divest from fossil fuel companies such as BP and Shell.

Bradford Council is the administrative body for the fund, and at a Council meeting on Tuesday there were two motions based around these calls to divest.

Before the meeting members of the local branch of Extinction Rebellion protested outside the civic hall, pleading with members to pull out of investing in fossil fuels.

But during the meeting Council bosses pointed out that this was beyond the remit of the Council.

Councillor Kevin Warnes (Green, Shipley) brought one motion, and pointed out that the fund has shares worth £500m in fossil fuel companies. His motion called for an independent review of how the fund could divest from fossil fuels.

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He pointed out that the Council was aiming to reduce carbon emissions, and added: "Holding fossil fuel shares while asking businesses to change behaviour is like asking someone to set fireworks off, holding the matches and asking them to phase out fireworks at the same time."

Councillor Alun Griffiths (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley) also put forward a motion urging the fund to divest from fossil fuels.

Councillor Mike Pollard (Cons, Baildon) said Councillors did not, and should not, have the power to decide what the pension fund invests in.

Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: "The Fund must take proper advice on what it invests in. A meeting of 90 Councillors is not the best place for that.

"We have to be honest with people. It is not the role of any member in here to make decisions on this fund. We have to be honest over what our role and responsibility is, and what the fund can and can't do."

She pointed out that the fund had committed to a "net zero portfolio" by 2050, and said a claim that the fund had "lost" £211m by investing in fossil fuels was "not actually true."

She also said the Fund invested heavily in sustainable businesses.

The Council voted against supporting the Green and Lib Dem motions, instead supporting a Labour motion urging the fund to "wind down" holdings in fossil fuels and make a commitment "to significant progress towards net-zero by 2030."

After the meeting Paul McHugh from Bradford Extinction Rebellion, said: "It was disappointing to see the Ruling Labour Group play party politics with such an important issue. The UN, the International Energy Agency have both called for an immediate ban on new oil exploration. Yet BP and other major oil companies are planning major new oil exploration with the help of finance from UK banks and pension schemes. It is undeniable that fossil fuel companies are causing the biggest damage to our climate and are still planning massive investment in new oil exploration to the cost of our climate and lives. The WYPF insistence on Fiduciary duty is a myth. Friends of the Earth & Platform report of this year, proves that fossil fuel investments have not made the top 10 list for over a decade and this last three years the WYPF has lost £211 million on its fossil fuel investments.

"The Labour amendment listed all the work the Authority is doing to combat climate change, but the single biggest thing it could do to decarbonise would be to divest The WYPF £500 million from fossil fuels and it failed to do that.