A £6BILLION pension fund for Essex’s public sector workers has no plans to stop supporting fossil fuel companies despite growing signs of significant losses.

The Essex Pension Fund is one of the biggest local government pension schemes in the country and is responsible for investing billions of pounds on behalf of the teachers, local government staff and charity workers it represents.

Figures from the end of 2018 show that more than £200million of the £6billion fund is invested in the fossil fuel industry.

Representatives who oversee the fund have refused to say they will look for alternative investments and instead reiterated its goal of getting “maximum returns”.

But in a stark warning of the risks of such investments, it was announced last week that the world’s biggest investment firm BlackRock had lost an estimated $90billion over the last ten years after ignoring warnings about investments in fossil fuel companies.

A report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis notes that investing in companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP would “work in the 1980s” but investments now need to be made in renewable energy.

Among the pension fund investments is £3.3million in Oil Search, a company whose share prices has tumbled by 20 per cent in the past year and £1.7million invested in Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, which has seen share prices fall 17 per cent.

Conservative county councillor Susan Barker, chairman of the Essex Pension Investment Steering Committee, said: “The main responsibility of the Essex Pension Fund is to ensure it has sufficient funds available to pay pensions on behalf of more than 160,000 people, including employees at councils, schools, colleges, universities and the fire and rescue service.

“Our aim is to ensure maximum return on investment and as a fund, we recognise our responsibility for managing a range of risks faced by long-term investors, including those potentially posed by climate change.

“The fund’s investment strategy, as determined by the Investment Steering Committee, is under constant review and there are regular consultations on the strategy.

“The committee has recently agreed a timetable for reviewing the Fund’s strategy. 

“The strategy will be subject to a stakeholder consultation in the first half of 2020.”

Southend Council’s representative for the pension fund, Labour councillor Matt Dent did not respond to a request for comment but has previously stated he will campaign for changes to the investments.

However, Alicia Hegarty, a founder of Southend Extinction Rebellion campaign group, said: “Councillors previously raised concerns about fossil fuel investments but it collapsed due to arguments.

“They have so much invested and there could be a fear that a sudden switch will shock the market so they need to be cautious but we know the dangers of these companies, the evidence is there.”

The fund was previously criticised at the beginning of the year after the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed it has millions of pounds invested in companies which have ties to crimes abroad.

Those investments include more than £30million invested in subsidiaries of the Tata Group, a multinational corporation that boasted selling military vehicles to Myanmar days before the United Nations accused the country’s military of genocide.

It also invests £600,000 in BAE Systems, a British defence company that supplies fighter jets to Saudi Arabia for its bombing campaign in Yemen. In June, a court of appeals ruled that such arms sales were “unlawful” due to the risk of them being used in violations of humanitarian law.