Green activists have criticised the county council for investing in 'a major force in destroying our precious ecological balance', by putting nearly £70million of its pension pot in fossil fuels.

Surrey County Council has £176.77million of its pension fund invested in fossil fuel companies – £66.83million of which is directly invested in coal, oil and gas companies – campaigners found.

The Surrey Pensions Fund is run for more than 200 public bodies across the county. The county council, which runs the fund, has a responsibility to invest its £2billion-plus worth of assets legally and in businesses that maximise returns, a council spokesman said.

“Only a tiny amount is invested in fossil fuels”, the spokesman added.

But Surrey Greens have called for the county council to divest the nearly £70million it has directly invested in fossil fuels, including the £3million-plus it has propping up “environmentally harmful” oil sands companies.

Fossil fuels contain high percentages of carbon, petroleum, coal and natural gas, which are released into the atmosphere when burnt, and cause harmful pollution.

Ninety seven per cent of peer-reviewed studies on climate change agree that human behaviour – especially the combustion of fossil fuel – contributes to climate change.

Surrey County Council’s £67million share in fossil fuels companies includes nearly £3.25million invested in Suncor Energy, Canada’s largest oil and gas producer, which this year launched a bid to start building a new 240 square-kilometre oil sands development.

Oil sands, also known as tar sands, are sands that contain an extremely thick form of petroleum. Carbon emissions from oil sands are 12 per cent higher than from regular crude oil, according to a 2012 study by the Government of Alberta.

Epsom Green campaigner Janice Baker said: “It's crazy to go on investing in the fossil fuel industry – a major force in destroying our precious ecological balance.

“Three London Boroughs have divested already and the sooner Surrey County Council follows suit the better.”

Surrey County Council was urged to make the changes as part of a week-long nationwide campaign against local authorities investing more than £14billion worth of pension funds in fossil fuel companies.

A spokesperson for Fossil Free UK said: “These holdings by city, borough and county councils are accelerating dangerous climate change, present long term financial risks for savers and taxpayers, and don’t benefit local communities.”

A county council spokesman said: “The Surrey Pension Fund is run for more than 200 public bodies in Surrey, including the county council, and only a tiny amount is invested in fossil fuels.

“All of us have a responsibility to ensure we invest within the law and in businesses that maximise returns and provide the best value for taxpayers' money.”

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