Environmental campaigners have called on Brent Council to immediately stop investing in fossil fuels on the basis it represents “bad policy, bad economics, and bad politics”.

A presentation from Divest Brent to the council’s cabinet yesterday (Tuesday, April 6), delivered by Cllr Matt Kelcher (Lab, Kensal Green), criticised the council pension fund’s backing of non-renewable energy.

Supported by a petition with 1,400 signatories, it suggested failing to take action will mean the council will “remain part of the problem” when it comes to tackling global warming.

Cllr Kelcher said continued investment in fossil fuels is at odds with the fact the council declared a climate emergency in 2019, while Brent would be at risk of “being left behind” if it did not follow nine other London boroughs in committing to divestment.

He added the current process does not make economic sense, highlighting a response to a Freedom of Information request which suggested the pension fund “might have lost £8 million by not divesting before the [Covid-19] pandemic”.

And he believes such investments are not sustainable with petrol and diesel “clearly on the way out” with fewer and fewer people likely to make use of such fuels.

“It’s happening, it’s inevitable and, at the moment, we’re behind the curve,” Cllr Kelcher said.

“Do it now while we can make most of an impact – it will show we were a council on the right side of history, had the right values at heart and was prepared to take action.”

Cllr Margaret McLennan (Lab, Northwick Park), deputy leader of Brent Council, explained immediate divestment would have an “enormous impact” on people’s pensions.

However, she said there was a clear commitment from the council to “actively” look at investing in renewable energy and that it would work with campaigners to help create a “cleaner, greener, healthier Brent”.

She was supported by Cllr Muhammed Butt (Lab, Tokyngton), leader of Brent Council, who said the council was “well on the way on a positive journey” on this issue and would “move towards divestment responsibly”.

Simon Erskine, co-ordinator of Divest Brent, acknowledged these responses but stressed quick, decisive action is necessary to limit the amount of environmental damage.

He said: “We welcome any moves by the pension fund to invest sustainably and to help with the transition to renewable energy – but the fact is that whatever green investments the fund may have, while it continues to invest in fossil fuels it is part of the problem.

“We therefore look forward to working with the council to develop a roadmap for divestment in the short-term.”