CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL voted to back a motion calling on the Dyfed Pension Fund to divest itself of fossil fuel funds.
Councillors voted on Wednesday to divest from fossil fuel companies within two years.
The motion called on the £2.5bn Dyfed Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuel companies, the most ambitious plan for a Welsh local authority.
Before the debate, a large number of councillors had to exit an already underpopulated chamber, due to their personal and familial interests in the Fund as beneficiaries.
A similar motion calling on Cardiff & Vale Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels within five years was passed by Cardiff Council in July.
The motion coincides with environmental protests in central London where thousands of activists are seeking to pressure the UK Government to tackle Climate Change.
During the meeting, Carmarthenshire Energy Chair, Greg Parker, outlined an alternative to funding fossil fuels through a question to the Chair of the Dyfed Pension Fund Committee, noting that investing in solar and battery capacity could result in energy independence within twelve years, with a significant return for policyholders.
Speaking in the debate, Labour Leader, Cllr Rob James stated “You can’t declare a climate emergency and carry on investing in the very companies that are responsible for the climate crisis.
“It is important to note that the Pension Fund policyholders will not suffer as a result of this bold agenda. We believe they will be financially better off.
Lancashire County Council has invested £12 million in the UK’s largest community-owned solar farm, with a projected 11% annual return.
“Carmarthenshire Council have just a few levers to pull to support the effort in tackling climate change. This is the biggest and most important one. We must put our money where our mouth is.
“We must take radical action before we face the full, and devastating force of a climate catastrophe.”
The motion will now go before Dyfed Pension Fund Committee for consideration.
However, the path to the agreement was difficult and there was strong dissent from attempts to politicise an issue upon which there had previously been cross-party harmony.
Members’ moods on the Plaid and Independent benches were not improved by a social media message from Labour leader Rob James, who suggested that Plaid Cymru was seeking to thwart his blockbusting climate change agenda.
His motion called for the Dyfed Pension Fund to divest itself of all investments in fossil fuel funds within two years.
An amendment proposed by Cllr Carys Jones called on the Fund to divest itself as soon as possible.
On such wording, arguments turn.
Introducing the motion, Cllr James reminded councillors that they declared a climate emergency earlier this year. He felt progress had been slow and recounted how, over the summer, he had been influenced by Extinction Rebellion protestors and their demand for action on climate change. Having spoken to the protestors, Rob James said that his motion was a call for action now.
The Labour leader explained his vision for the pension fund to invest widely in renewable energy-based locally. He said the opportunities for that investment were present and in Carmarthenshire now and that it was an opportunity to get out in front and invest in the energy of the future and not in the past.
Seconding the motion, Cllr Deryk Cundy, said this was a case where ‘Mammon could help Gaia’. He noted that investment in renewables outside Wales already formed a small part of the pension fund’s investment portfolio. He wanted to bring those funds back to invest in renewable energy industries based in Wales.
Cllr Carys Jones moved her amendment to the motion. Cllr Jones said she supported Cllr James’ motion’s aims but questioned whether such a substantial divestment was possible in the timeframe set out in it.
She said that Plan B, the investments in renewables, had to be ready to roll before Plan A, the investments in fossil fuels were dropped. Carys Jones said that she did not know whether enough viable local opportunities existed for investment in renewable energy. She also explained that the fund held a financial responsibility to those who were scheme members to maximise the return for their pension investments.
Aled Vaughan Owen spoke strongly in favour of the motion. The Plaid councillor, who proposed the climate emergency motion in February, explained that the pension fund also had the chance to divest itself of investments on ethical grounds. He highlighted the interlocking legislation which enables the pension fund to move rapidly to get rid of investments in fossil fuel investments.
Cllr Owen explained that he looked at the investment record of the Dyfed Pension Scheme. From 2009 to 2017, the amount the fund held in fossil fuel-related funds had risen inexorably; the fund no longer published the figures underpinning those investments, it only recorded them as a percentage of the whole fund. He set out that one fund in which Dyfed Pension Fund invested was the Blackrock fund relating to fossil fuels which had plummeted in value over the last few years. He said retaining that investment was bad for the fund, bad for its beneficiaries, and did nothing to tackle the climate emergency the Council unanimously declared.
Cllr Jeff Edmunds rejected the partisan political note introduced into the debate and said that this was too important an issue for political game playing. He questioned the possibility of meeting the two-year time limit set out in the motion. He supported the motion’s intent but queried the speed at which the action called for could be taken.
He said that there were no figures behind the motion and, while he supported its intent, he felt without some concrete financials behind it, it was difficult to support.
Cllr Giles Morgan picked up on the point raised by Cllr Edmunds. ‘Putting his audit head on’, he felt the lack of investment data and an indication of which local businesses would benefit from the divestment and whether they were ready for the size of investment suggested were issues that councillors needed to bear in mind.
As Cllr Cefin Campbell started to address the issue, the sound on the webcast faded out making contributions impossible to follow in either Welsh or English.
When the sound returned, as Cllr Gareth Thomas concluded his contribution to the debate, Cllr John Prosser said his experience as a member of the Pension Board was that divestments could be made quickly and that they had been previously.
Cllr Darren Price raised an interesting point for the debate. He noted that the Fund held investments on behalf of 50 separate member organisations. The Council could ask the Dyfed Pension Fund to divest its interests in fossil fuels, but regardless of its status as lead authority, the decision on divestment would ultimately be down to the Pension Fund’s Board. Who could, as he pointed out, say ‘no’.
Picking up on Cllr Price’s remarks, Cllr Carys Jones asked for clarification as to whether the motion was a request or an instruction. She noted that officers, who were absent from the Chamber because of their interests as potential beneficiaries of the fund, were unable to assist. In the absence of their guidance, Kevin Madge in the Chair said it was up to Councillors. Darren Price again pressed the point that the motion ‘called’ on the Pension Fund to act.
Carys Jones said, such being the case she would withdraw her amendment.
However, in an effort to pluck defeat from the jaws of certain victory, Cllr Rob James – who appeared to have prepared for debate of a different tone and with a different conclusion – said that the motion both instructed the fund and called upon it to divest itself of fossil fuels. He then made a mess of his position by saying that the two years in his motion was a target for the fund and open to review at the end of the period if divestment had not been achieved.
With the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin growing rapidly, Cllr Jones took the motion at its face and withdrew her amendment.
The motion passed with no opposing votes and five abstentions.
Our election prediction: No change for west Wales, same MPs will be elected
COUNTING of ballots is underway at the Pavillion at the Pembrokeshire County Showground, Haverfordwest and in Llanelli at the Selwyn Samuel Centre.
Exit polls from the BBC and Sky News predict a Conservative majority of over eighty seats, with Labour predicted to slip as low as 191 MPs, come the end of tonight’s count
We’re live throughout the night from the County Showground, Haverfordwest, and the Selwyn Samuel Centre, Llanelli, to bring you rolling coverage and news as it unfolds for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Llanelli, Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.
We are predicting the following results:
Preseli Pembrokeshire – Stephen Crabb, Conservative, Hold
Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire – Simon Hart, Conservative, Hold
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr – Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru, Hold
Llanelli – Nia Griffith, Labour, Hold
Ceredigion – Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru, Hold
Effectively, we predict no change in members of parliament for any of the constituencies in west Wales.
Cadno’s General Election message
NO AMOUNT of lies told by politicians will change the fact that poorer and/or fewer public services in Carmarthenshire are a direct result of budgetary decisions reached in London.
For the last nine and a half years, the Party pulling the budgetary strings has been the Conservatives. Choices made by the Conservative Party in Westminster to cut welfare benefits, target the most vulnerable in society to bear the burden of austerity, strip out funding for public services, to reduce access to criminal justice through cuts to the police and courts – underpin many of the issues affecting Carmarthenshire. If you look around Carmarthenshire and see the number of people dependent on food banks, people in work reliant on charity for food, you must realise how much their use has climbed in the last decade.
Austerity was a political choice made by the Conservative Party. It placed the burden for baling out banks on those with the least. The bankers kept their money, the people with least to give ended up giving the most. Even George Osborne acknowledges – now – Labour wasn’t responsible for the financial crisis.
When you’re angry at the Council, at the Health Board, the persistent ‘they’ who never listen ‘to the likes of you and me’, you should be angry at the people ultimately responsible. Central Government has been very good at shuffling the blame for cuts down the line – but it is ultimately responsible. No jiggery-pokery with spending promises that just reshuffle the same old money or apply only to England will change that.
One Conservative PM called a referendum to hold his party together; a second tried to reach a deal that appeased the head-bangers in her party and failed accordingly; the current PM – one of the head-bangers who blocked Brexit in favour of moving the UK to Narnia – is a proven serial liar and blustering bully whose idea of research is reading back issues of The Beezer.
This column isn’t about Brexit. Quite frankly, most minds are made up on the issue in a way that tolerates no rational debate. For all the difference one fat fox will make to his readers’ thinking on that subject, he may as well pee in the sea at Pembrey.
All Cadno can do is state the facts: every industry which contributes to Carmarthenshire’s economy will be affected adversely by tariffs between the UK and the EU. And the magic lifebelt to help relieve the fall will be a City Deal funded directly and indirectly by EU funding.
But Cadno wants to turn to those of you who either have not decided HOW to vote or those who have decided NOT to vote.
To the first of those, Cadno says the following: take a good look around you. If you are happy with what you see, you know where you can stick your cross. If you are unhappy that Carmarthenshire has become measurably poorer and worse off in the same period, you won’t want more of the same. Not unless you’re some sort of masochist.
To those who have decided not to vote: if you can’t be bothered you waive the right to complain afterwards.
Whatever happens, you couldn’t be bothered to try and influence it beforehand, so stop chirping with the benefit of ignorant hindsight. There is certain nobility in going to a polling station and spoiling your vote or writing in ‘none of the above’. If enough of you do it, even by casting a spoiled ballot your voice will be noticed. It takes ten minutes to vote. It’s better than five years of moaning when you couldn’t make the effort to write the letter ‘x’ on a scrap of paper.
Voting is a right and it is also a duty.
Your Candidates: Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire
THE CARMARTHENSHIRE HERALD invited each of Pembrokeshire’s General Election candidates to provide us with a statement asking them to complete the following in 300 words:
Voting for [candidate name] is best for [this constituency] because…
Seven out of eight candidates answered our request.
We present them below in alphabetical order and by constituency contested.
CARMARTHEN WEST AND SOUTH PEMBROKESHIRE:
VOTING for Alistair Cameron is best for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire because he wants to remain within the European Union, tackle the underfunding in our public services and work for new jobs for our area.
Alistair grew up in South Pembrokeshire and he has a positive vision for our area with a stronger economy, better job opportunities, a cleaner environment and better funded public services.
This depends on staying in the European Union which is vital for farming, tourism and future job opportunities. EU membership benefits our Irish ferries and our oil refinery. Staying in will secure a £50 billion Remain Bonus, with the economy 2% larger by 2024-25. This can be invested in our schools, and in tackling in-work poverty and inequality. Staying in allows British citizens to live and work throughout Europe and EU workers to work in our NHS, care homes, farms and tourist attractions. EU action forced us to clean up our beaches and seas.
The Liberal Democrats will tackle the health and social care crises through an extra £7 billion funded through putting 1p on the basic rate of income tax. In the longer term, we support a dedicated, progressive Health and Care Tax, offset by other tax reductions.
We will be carbon-neutral by 2045 through insulating all of Britain’s homes by 2030, ensuring 80% of UK electricity is from renewables by 2030 and planting 60 million trees a year. We will electrify Britain’s railways and ensure all new cars are electric by 2030.
We will provide free childcare for all children with parents in work from nine months and for all children from two years up to starting school.
Contact Alistair on facebook: AlistairCameronPembs, Twitter: AlistairPembs or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Voting for Simon Hart is best for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire because leavers and remainers alike share a desire to get Brexit done and get on with the important business of improving the NHS, law and order and sustaining the livelihoods and jobs of those who live and work here.
In my experience though there are plenty of non-Brexit topics that keep us awake at night – our house, our health, our job and our schools. The environment has rocketed up the list of concerns too which is why our new Environment Bill has become a flagship issue.
On top of this we are going to recruit 20,000 extra police officers (50 of them in Dyfed-Powys) invest £34 billion in the NHS (which translates into £1.4 billion for Wales) make major improvements to broadband and mobile phone coverage and invest in schools, housing and jobs – something our Labour colleagues running the Assembly will also receive the funds necessary.
We will increase the national living wage from £8.20 to £10.50 and increase the threshold for National Insurance payments to £12,500 – lifting thousands more people out of paying NI altogether.
I am lobbying strongly against the plans to reopen a Waste Transfer Station in Royal Dockyard in Pembroke Dock and fighting to retain vital services at Withybush Hospital.
I have spent years taking on BT to improve the rollout of superfast broadband and still battle with the Welsh Assembly to improve dangerous junctions such as Nash near Cosheston and Red Roses.
I have now been your MP for almost a decade during which time my local office has helped well over 10,000 local people with a whole range of different issues. Our area is special because we have such a wide range of jobs, from oil to agriculture and such a diverse community. We like to get on, to succeed, to aspire and to look after each other. My ambition is to see that continue.
Voting for Dr Rhys Thomas, Plaid Cymru, is best for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire because we need an MP who’s lived life: a man with a proven track record of serving his country and saving lives. After 17 years as a front-line army medical officer in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, Dr Rhys co-led on setting up the Wales Air Ambulance service after retiring as a Lt. Colonel to run the family farm and work as a Consultant Anaesthetist in local hospitals.
“The Wales Air Ambulance service is the best in the world and we should also work towards making our NHS the best in the world,” he said.
“While Labour, which runs the NHS in Wales, is dragging its feet, Plaid sees integrating health and social care as the only sustainable future for both services. Meanwhile, at a time of huge staffing shortage and financial cuts due to the Tory UK government’s failed austerity project, front line NHS staff are doing a heroic job,” said Dr Rhys.
“People are fed up with Tory lies and Labour false promises. Westminster is a toxic mess. This election won’t change that. ‘Let’s get Brexit done’ is a misleading lie. Brexit isn’t an event but a process – a long and hazardous process which will take several years. Wales will badly need a powerful voice to get fair play for our nation in a post-Brexit Britain. Here in west Wales, that means ensuring continuing support for agriculture, fishing and small businesses; investing to create jobs in sustainable energy to boost our economy, mitigate climate change and provide future generations with a clean and safe country to live in.
“Plaid Cymru is the only party that exists to fight Wales’ corner. Wales needs Plaid MPs more than ever before,” said Dr Rhys Thomas.
Voting for Marc Tierney is best for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire because Marc is totally committed to getting things properly done. Unlike the Tory MP we have had for the last decade, he will get the support we need for jobs, the environment, hospitals and surgeries, social care, schools, training and infrastructure.
Marc said: “This has become an election about hope for a better future. I’m really excited about Labour’s plans for green jobs – including the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, an incredible boost for West Wales. I’m proud of our clean seas and our green farming and I’ll be a strong advocate for our food and tourism sector. Better technology, free broadband, and training in high skill industries mean our young people will no longer have to get out to get on.
“This has become an election about empathy. Like you, I love living here but we see every day the struggles local people have, just like in other areas. I will support a compassionate government that supports you and your family, with better-resourced services and fairer social security. Asking the very well off to pay a little more tax so that others don’t have to struggle. I support the fair pension fight for women born in the 1950s. Labour will deliver that justice. As your MP, I will always stand by your side.
“And this has become an election about trust. Throughout the campaign, I have met people right across the constituency who have told me they don’t trust Prime Minister Johnson. They have seen him lie on Brexit, on hospital funding and on nurses. They are frightened that a majority would give him free rein to pursue a trade deal with Mr Trump using our NHS. We can’t let that happen and if I am your Labour MP, trust me–it won’t.
Change only happens when you vote for it. Vote Marc Tierney on Thursday.
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