The Oil Machine Screenings

DivestWMPF are delighted to announce that we will be hosting three screenings of the groundbreaking documentary film The Oil Machine

“By highlighting the complexities of how oil is embedded in our society – from high finance to cheap consumer goods – THE OIL MACHINE brings together a wide range of voices from oil company executives, economists, young activists, workers, scientists, and pension fund managers. It considers how this machine can be tamed, dismantled, or repurposed.

We have five to ten years to control our oil addiction, and yet the licensing of new oil fields continues in direct contradiction with the Paris Climate Agreement. This documentary looks at how the drama of global climate action is playing out in the fight over North Sea oil.”

The three screenings are:

Old Print Works, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – 11th March 2023

Artefact, Stirchley, Birmingham – 13th March

Birmimgham Friends of the Earth Warehouse Cafe – 20th March

WMPF has the third highest fossil fuel exposure in UK

A new report out today from UK Divest (Friends of the Earth & Platform) has found that West Midlands Pension Fund have the third highest exposure to fossil fuels of any local government pension scheme in the UK, investing £508 million in the top 200 most polluting fossil fuel companies in the 2019/2020 financial year.

The pension fund should be divested from polluting fossil fuel companies and reinvested in the region to create local green jobs. For example, Jaguar Land Rover, which has just announced it will phase out diesel engines, has a huge engine factory in Wolverhampton. Jobs like these need to transitioned to the clean economy, and the pension fund can help to fund this opportunity.

The report is covered by the national press Times, Express and Guardian.

DivestWMPF have been campaigning since 2015 for the pension fund to divest from fossil fuel companies because fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change and incompatible with keeping a safe and habitable planet for retirement and future generations. They are also risky assets to hold now that the world is moving rapidly towards low carbon technologies to provide energy for the future. Despite engagement with the fossil fuel companies by WMPF and other local government pension funds, the report highlights the lack of successes to show for this effort. For example, one company often highlighted as an engagement success, BP, has a long way to go – from the report:

“BP, the second largest beneficiary of direct investments from local authority pensions, caused Deepwater Horizon, the world’s largest ever oil spill in 2010. Despite advertising themselves as a ‘green’ energy company, BP plans to spend £41 billion on new oil exploration in the next decade, including projects in the Canadian ‘tar sands’, the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and the Amazon rainforest (Corporate Watch, 2020)”

Over three quarters of UK councils have declared a climate emergency, this includes the West Midlands Combined Authority, Birmingham City Council, Wolverhampton Council and others. Continuing to invest in companies which are planning expansion of fossil fuel extraction completely undermines these local authorities’ efforts to decarbonise.

The report also make it clear that fossil fuels are a risky investment:

It’s a financial risk—with UK Public Pensions losing £2 billion on oil investments in the last 4 years. 5 It’s also a political risk—with the UK public more concerned about climate change than ever before.

The report points to research by Platform that WMPF recently lost £80 million on fossil fuels:

Losses by absolute value 2017-2020

There has never been a better time to divest from fossil fuels.

After a decade of austerity and the devastating economic impact of Covid across the UK, local councils can use their pension funds to support local investment priorities. Some already do, and in 2021, it’s time for others to follow their lead.

If you live in Wolverhampton, please contact your local councillor and tell them to pledge to support fossil fuel divestment.

UK Divest have a new website where you can find out more about divestment and get involved in your area.

WMPF reveals fossil fuel exposure

So now we know. West Midlands Pension Fund have finally declared in a response to a Freedom of Information request by DivestWMPF that at the end of 2019, by their own calculation, they had £587 million invested in fossil fuel companies.

If you live in Wolverhampton, please click the button below to email your councillor about this:

In December last year, WMPF finally released a climate change disclosure report , after pressure from an increasingly impatient Pensions Committee, from campaigners, and a public that is increasingly alarmed by climate risk on the future they will be retiring into. Embedded in this report was a chart that appears to show 6.9% of equities invested in fossil fuels, a figure higher than previously estimated by campaigners.

This information hasn’t come easily. Since the DivestWMPF campaign started, it has been a struggle to figure out how much of the fund was invested in fossil fuels. Since the launch of DivestWMPF in 2015, campaiTake actiongners have had to pour through lists of assets provided by the pension funds, comparing with lists of those companies holding fossil fuel reserves. This effort is hindered by many black box indirect investment funds making it impossible to know exactly how much of members’ pensions are supporting this most destructive of industries.

This wasn’t enough for DivestWMPF. We wanted to know how much was invested by our local government on behalf of council workers in the industry that has most contributed to the destruction of the climate. So we submitted a Freedom of Information request and to the managers credit, we got direct answers to our questions. The pension fund declares £587 million, £100 per person in the West Midlands invested in fossil fuels as of Dec 2019. The Fund’s definition is different from the metric traditionally used by campaigners, which is based on companies in the top 200 companies holding fossil fuel reserves. From the FoI response:

The carbon risk metrics within the Fund’s TCFD Report are based on a dataset provided by MSCI ESG Research. MSCI define ‘weight in Fossil Fuels’ as the portfolio weight in companies that own fossil fuel reserves.

DivestWMPF will continue to press for this to be £0 per person. The West Midlands cannot simultaneously declare a climate emergency and continue to fund companies which fight to maintain the status quo, plan for expansion of drilling and lobby against the necessary policy changes.

If you live in Wolverhampton, please take part in our e-campaign and write to your local councillor about this:

Introducing the DivestWMPF newsletter

We are delighted to introduce our free newsletter. Sign up now to receive the latest divestment news in your inbox.

Our first edition asks if a string of recent huge divestment announcements point to investors starting to realise the limitations of engagement. We look at the recent massive losses for fossil fuel majors, and ask if Joe Biden’s surprisingly aggressive raft of climate announcements signal a tipping point for fossil fuels.

Fossil Fuel Divestment: A Plea for the Future

The time for investing in fossil fuels is over. WMPF must urgently commit to divesting from fossil fuels and reinvesting locally to support a low carbon future. We ask councillors to sign our pledge at

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. 

David Wallace-Wellls, The Uninhabitable Earth

Climate change is an existential threat to humanity. Without global action to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the climate will change catastrophically with almost unimaginable consequences for societies across the world.

UK Treasury

A recent report by West Midlands Pension Fund has revealed for the first time that the fund invests up to £850 million, 6.9% of its total equities in fossil fuel companies. [1]

97% of climate experts agree that human activity, mainly the burning of fossil fuels has caused climate change. Despite a decades-long campaign of misinformation campaign by the threatened fossil fuel industry, UK public concern has reached a record high. The public understands the combined threats of spiralling world hunger, mega-storms, lethal heat-waves, huge regions uninhabitable, diminishing water supplies due to melting Himalayan glaciers, rising sea-levels and the death of all coral reefs, to name a few. Also people in the UK are noticing changes around them, such as more frequent extreme weather events (heatwaves, flooding, etc.), and are realising that climate change is not something that will only affect their children – it is something which impacts us all today.

The public now understands the win-win of green job-creation opportunities, of strong government climate policy and investment in low-energy homes, clean energy, etc. Joe Biden’s victory has proven that climate is now an election winning issue. And renewables are beating fossil fuels on price much faster than experts at the IEA predicted. Plus, they are being downgraded by the credit agencies, making fossil fuels an increasingly risky investment.

However, local government pension schemes like WMPF are still clinging onto the idea that “company level engagement continues to successfully drive behaviour”, even as profits are cut and valuations fall across the fossil fuel industry; an industry that despite the greenwash, spends 38% of its lobbying activity fighting climate legislation.

This is where fossil fuel divestment steps in. It is the moving of money out of fossil fuels and into low-carbon and socially-beneficial investments.

It is time for councillors to ask themselves if it is right for the pension fund to be contributing to the destruction of humanity’s life support systems, investing in an industry determined to extract enough fossil fuels to create an “existential threat to humanity” (UK Treasury). A recent report by Oil Change International found that “not a single climate plan released by a major oil company comes close to aligning with the urgent 1.5ºC global warming limit”. 

Councillors need to challenge the Fund to weigh the extremely speculative possibility of the fossil fuel industry transforming itself en-masse into a renewables industry within 10-20 years against the (increasingly unlikely) possibility of a continuation of its historically strong returns. History hasn’t been kind to incumbent industries like Kodak and Blockbuster who failed to respond to technological change. Even prior to the recent pandemic-related shock to the fossil fuel industry, research has shown stock market performance between 1990-2016 based on all stocks and excluding fossil fuels was statistically insignificant (< 0.01%). The Fund has a lot to lose from fossil fuels (Local Government Pensions already lost £683 million when coal crashed), and a huge amount to gain by being on the right side of history.

A vote in favour of divestment would demonstrate to the public that councillors are serious about tackling the climate emergency that they have declared; it is highly unlikely to negatively impact returns; indeed, it is more likely that returns will be protected if fossil fuel stocks plunge still further in a disrupted geopolitical landscape.

Take Action

DivestWMPF asks local councillors to sign our pledge to support divestment:

Find Out More

DivestWMPF have produced a number of briefings for councillors, which are available on our website, The following may be of particular interest:


[1] The figure of £849 million in fossil fuel equities is based on WMPF’s Climate Related Financial Disclosures 2020 report which discloses 6.9% total equities invested in fossil fuels. The categories of investments which this includes is not detailed, so the following categories from the 2020 Annual Report are assumed: UK equities, Overseas Equities, Pooled investment vehicles, totalling £12,308 million in March 2019. DivestWMPF have raised a Freedom of Information request with WMPF to clarify this figure, and this briefing will be updated when the information is received.