CAMPAIGNERS have criticised “morally repugnant” plans for Glasgow City Council’s pension fund to continue investing hundreds of millions of pounds in fossil fuels ahead of the city hosting the COP26 climate conference.

Activists have claimed that unless councillors call for action at a crunch meeting on Wednesday - investment in companies linked to fossil fuel exploration will continue.

But counillors, who are just required to note an update on Wednesday, do not set policy for the pension fund - despite the council previously having agreed a motion calling for the pension fund to stop investing in fossi fuels.

Instead, a pension fund committee can influence policy but cannot prefer the interests of the council to those of the fund and its members.

The Strathclyde Pension Fund was asked by campaigners to put in place a plan to divest from fossil fuel companies before the COP26 UN climate summit, taking place in Glasgow in November.

Earlier this year, a decision was taken to "approve divestment as a tool to address firms that do not engage with the climate crisis".

A detailed assessment from Friends of the Earth Scotland has estimated that the Strathclyde Pension Fund invests more than £836 million in fossil fuel companies, made up of £138 million of direct investment and £698 million indirectly invested.

The analysis has suggested that investment has increased by £218 million in the space of a year. The fund’s own estimate put oil and gas investments at £316 million.

READ MORE: Scottish councils invest millions in fossil fuel firms

Friends of the Earth has suggested that this is the largest investment in climate polluters of any public fund in Scotland.

A report to be considered by councillors highlights the pension fund’s investment in “energy companies” including a suggestion to set up “minimum standards” for investment.

But the report adds that most managers of funds “have few or no ‘red lines’”, adding that “most managers emphasised the importance of engagement with companies rather than exclusion”.

The document highlights the investment portfolio including “a leading US oil services company providing equipment and consumables to the oil and gas exploration and production industry” which “has yet to make commitments commensurate with achieving net zero emissions by 2050”.

The report has suggested that “each company could be categorised” using a “red, amber, green rating system”, with a “working assumption” that those with a red rating would see a decision to “disinvest”.

But the paper stresses that an “initial assessment would suggest that most of the current holdings” would fall into the green and amber categories, meaning investment would continue for the majority of companies.

Going by policies in other countires, the process of divesting pension funds could take many years - and common practise suggests direct investments being prioritised.

No decisions will be taken at Wednesday’s meeting, the last time the issue will be considered before COP26.

Campaigners have claimed the policy sets the bar for continued investment in polluters so low that most major oil companies would likely be retained and there is no alignment with the city council's own climate emergency plan.

The activists have also criticised the lack of references to specific figures, timescales, or deadlines, warning this makes it easy for companies to avoid divestment and no timescale set for any new policy to be adopted by.

Ric Lander, divestment campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Fund members, community activists and the city council have demanded the Strathclyde Pension Fund come up with a plan to divest from disastrous fossil fuel companies. Now it seems they’ve instead come up with a plan to carry on with business as usual.

“Continuing to invest hundreds of millions in climate polluters is financial folly and morally repugnant. Fossil fuel companies can’t survive if we succeed in building a sustainable future. That also means that, unless this policy is radically altered, Glasgow will host the world’s climate crisis talks knowing it’s pension fund is banking on their failure.

“City councillors do have the power to change course and invest sustainably. When the Pension Fund Committee scrutinises this proposal on Wednesday they should ask how the policy can be turned into something effective and meaningful, a contribution to climate action that Glasgow could be proud of.”

Isla Scott of Divest Strathclyde added: “We are frankly aghast that Strathclyde Pension Fund is still happy to pour hundreds of millions into financing the very companies who are driving the climate crisis and who are getting away with murder.

“After years of the policy of ‘engagement’ practiced by the fund, it is clear that this has made very little if any difference to the fossil fuel companies, who are even now planning to maximise the production of oil and gas in many places around the world while greenwashing their continued pollution and lobbying governments to prevent climate action.

“We want to see SPF put in place a real policy that will ensure they divest from these climate-destroying companies and reinvest in a sustainable future. We’ll be watching and holding them to account to make sure they don’t get away with this greenwashing.”

A spokesman for Strathclyde Pension Fund said: “It’s welcome that campaigners recognise that our direct investments in industries like oil and gas are already decreasing. They are also dwarfed by our investments in clean, renewable energy.

“Meanwhile, the fund’s exposure to oil and gas is less than half of what it was just five years ago, in terms of a percentage of our passive equity - and closing in on a two-thirds reduction in terms of the overall value of the fund.

“Strathclyde Pension Fund is one of the first large pension funds to approve divestment as a tool to address firms that do not engage with the climate crisis.”