OXFORDSHIRE County Council is set to receive a petition from its own employees urging it to divest from fossil fuels tomorrow.

Staff will ask that the Oxfordshire Local Government Pension Scheme drops investment in fossil fuel companies at a morning meeting.

The petition, signed by more than 170 pension scheme members, calls on the council to divest from 'all direct ownership, and any comingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds'.

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Emily Fitzherbert, a solicitor working for the council, is expected to present the petition.

She said: “I was inspired by talking to people from Fossil Free Oxfordshire, who were demonstrating outside County Hall about the fact that our pensions are currently invested in companies that are actively seeking new ways to extract fossil fuels and lobbying to prevent legislation that would curb their use.

"(Those companies) are therefore contributing to climate change and the political inertia around it."

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She continued: "This petition is from employees of Oxfordshire County Council who, like me, do not want to go on giving financial support to oil and gas companies.

"These companies continue to explore for and exploit fossil fuel reserves that we simply cannot burn if our children and grandchildren are to have a future."

Since the global Fossil Free campaign started in 2013, commitments to divest more than $8 trillion from fossil fuel companies have been made by more than 1,000 institutions, including pension funds and governments worldwide.

In 2014, Oxford City Council became the first British council to make a commitment to divest from fossil fuel companies.

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Al Chisholm of Fossil Free Oxfordshire said: “Oxfordshire County Council have ignored pleas to divest from fossil fuel companies, from members of the public by petition and by some of its major employer members in the scheme.

"Now over 170 members of the pension scheme are directly asking them to move the investments of over £50 million in climate-destructive companies. There are investment options that are not only better for the planet, but also far less financially risky, as increasingly other organisations are selling their shares in the fossil fuel sector”.

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County Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “The petition will be received and passed to the Pension Fund Committee.

"The Oxfordshire Pension Fund is responsible for pensions in a wide range of public sector agencies in Oxfordshire, not just the county council, covering over 63,000 scheme members and 250 employers.”

Mr Smith noted that it is possible for the council to divest but that "individual pension schemes around the country (within the Local Government Pension Scheme) make their own decisions as to the nature of their investments. What they can’t do is withdraw from the LGPS as a whole."

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He has previously noted that all councils in England (including those in Oxfordshire) are required by statute/law to be members of the Local Government Pension Scheme.