Canadian teachers don’t want their pensions invested in expanding Bristol airport
Since 2014 the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (which has some 329,000 members) has owned Bristol airport. Now some of the Canadian teachers in the pension plan say they stand in solidarity with the thousands of residents who oppose its expansion. In an open letter, six current and former teachers in the plan said they do not want their money used in such a “financially risky and unethical way”, and they would not want a foreign investor paving over their green spaces. They ask the pension plan to instruct the airport to withdraw its appeal, and stop trying to overthrow the democratic will of the local communities. The OTPP has rejected the teachers’ claims that the airport’s expansion – refused last year by North Somerset Council – was incompatible with the council’s climate change commitments. The teachers said the pension plan had pledged to invest in “climate-friendly opportunities” and must invest with conviction and integrity. An OTPP spokesperson gave a waffly response about how the airport was intending to eventually become carbon neutral … and “net zero by 2050.” The airport’s appeal will be heard at a public inquiry in July. The deadline for comments is February 22. OTPP also owns part of London City Airport. The USS owns 10% of Heathrow.
Teachers across Atlantic don’t want their money spent on Bristol Airport expansion
Members of pension fund that owns airport stand in solidarity with expansion opponents
19.2.2021 (Bristol Post)
Canadian teachers in the pension plan that owns Bristol Airport say they stand in solidarity with the thousands of residents who oppose its expansion.
In an open letter the six current and former teachers said they do not want their money used in such a “financially risky and unethical way”, and would not want a foreign investor paving over their green spaces.
Bristol Airport is wholly owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, which says its mission is to ensure retirement security for its 329,000 members.
It rejected the teachers’ claims that the airport’s expansion – refused last year by North Somerset Council – was incompatible with its climate change commitments.
The teachers wrote: “We may live on the other side of the Atlantic, but we stand in solidarity with the thousands of Bristolians who are working to prevent harm to your local environment, community health and the global climate.
“We call on our pension plan to instruct Bristol Airport to withdraw its appeal of North Somerset Council ’s rejection of the proposed expansion and stop trying to overturn the democratic will of your communities.
“We are opposed to our pensions being used in this financially risky and unethical way that would harm your local environment, lock in expanded fossil fuel use, and work against a safe climate future.”
They added: “We know you expressed your clear opposition to the airport expansion. And we know your local government wisely listened, and rejected the proposal.
“We wouldn’t want a foreign investor paving over our green spaces, polluting our communities, and taking our governments to court either.”
They said the pension plan had pledged to invest in “climate-friendly opportunities” and must invest with conviction and integrity, but argued that pushing for the airport’s expansion was incompatible with those aims.
The letter was signed by Teri Burgess, Letitia Charbonneau, Rosanne Iland, Zain Ghadially, Nicholas Clayton and Sarah Buisman.
A spokesperson for OTPP said: “We value and consider the feedback we hear from our 329,000 members, but our decision-making is guided by our mission to deliver retirement security for our members while creating a positive impact for our partners and the communities where we operate.
“We believe the expansion of Bristol Airport is consistent with that mission and can create sustainable value for our members and Bristol Airport’s stakeholders, including employees, customers, and local communities.
“We note that Bristol Airport’s plans include a roadmap to become carbon neutral for direct emissions by 2025 and a net-zero airport by 2050. These targets align with measures we are implementing to achieve net-zero at Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan by 2050.
“Bristol Airport has submitted an appeal to proceed with the expansion and we are awaiting the decision of the relevant UK government authority as to whether the expansion is in the region’s interests and should proceed.”
A Bristol Airport spokesperson said: “The plans to expand capacity at the airport will offer passengers more routes and flights from the South West directly, create jobs, facilitate inward investment and inbound tourism, and support greener and more sustainable, regional economic growth.
“Sustainable development has always been at the centre of Bristol Airport’s plans. The expansion proposals sit alongside a roadmap which sets out how the airport will achieve its ambition to become carbon neutral for direct emissions by 2025 and a net zero airport by 2050.
“These aims align with measures being implemented by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan to achieve net-zero by 2050.
“As the UK emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic it is essential that all regions of the country are given the opportunity to grow to their full potential and contribute to the national recovery effort. International trade and connectivity will become increasingly important in a post-COVID-19 and post-Brexit world – increasing aviation capacity is essential in delivering this goal.”
The appeal will be heard at a public inquiry in July. The deadline for comments is Monday, February 22.
Representations should be sent to Leanne.email@example.com quoting reference APP/D0121/W/20/3259234.
Bristol Airport ownership:
In September 2014, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan bought out Macquarie to become the sole owner. In April 2011 the shareholders were Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan – 49%, Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 1 – 50% – part of Macquarie Group, and MAp Airports (formerly Macquarie Airports) – 1%.Was Macquarie Airports Group till 2009.
The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan also owns part of London City Airport
In 2016 London City Airport was bought by a Canadian-led consortium of Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), OMERS, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Wren House Infrastructure Management of the Kuwait Investment Authority.
The Universities Superannuation Scheme, a UK pension fund, owns 10% of Heathrow.
Bristol Airport expansion: comments can be submitted on the appeal – 11th Jan to 22nd Feb
Members of the public are being urged to submit their views on the expansion of Bristol airport, to the Planning Inspectorate, ahead of public inquiry this summer. The consultation started on 11th January, and end on 22nd February. The airport appealed against a decision by North Somerset Council to reject its expansion plans which would see passenger numbers grow from 10 million to 12 million per year. The public inquiry heard by an independent planning inspector, would probably last 3-4 weeks, and is likely to start in July. Local campaigners are now getting ready to fight the appeal. They say any expansion of the airport would lead to congested roads, increased noise, loss of green belt, negative impact on the local environment from the proposed growth in flights – as well as the impact on climate change. Campaign group Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) is angry that the airport’s management has been instructed by wealthy owners, the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan, to appeal the original decision made in March 2020. Bristol City Council also opposed the expansion with North Somerset Council saying it will ‘robustly defend’ the appeal.
Bristol Airport Action Network crowdfunding to challenge airport’s appeal against North Somerset Council rejection
BAAN (Bristol Airport Action Network) Committee Coordinators are crowdfunding, to raise £6,000 for their attempt to challenge the airport’s appeal against the refusal, by North Somerset Council, of its expansion plans. BAAN says: the airport’s plans “would mean an extra 23,600 flights and two million passengers a year (as well as an extra 10,000 car movements a day). They would also mean a further million tonnes of carbon to be emitted a year at this time of climate and ecological emergency. Our position is that this airport expansion (and others that are planned) is not legally compliant with the Climate Change Act, The Paris Agreement and the Government’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 and MUST BE STOPPED.” They are doing all they can to stop the expansion. BAAN say: “We have been given a very favourable fee quote from a specialist planning barrister and are talking to a number of top experts who are likely to give their time pro-bono or at much reduced rates to represent us at the appeal. We are also being helped by Greenpeace and other environmental organisations.” Donations would be greatly appreciated.