PROTESTERS in Oxford's Radcliffe Square joined hundreds of thousands of people worldwide calling for climate change action on Saturday.

More than 100 people gathered to urge the county council to drop their alleged investment in a pension fund which supports the use of fossil fuels.

Demonstrating under the banner of 'Rise for Climate', protesters posed for an eye-catching image in front of the Radcliffe Camera building, as they urged the council to 'divest' and encouraged local action to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

They were photographed displaying an orange cross – the symbol of the fossil-free, divestment movement – and a sun, symbolising the way forward to renewable, clean energy.

It was one of around 850 events across nearly 100 countries.

Last week, a report from Platform, 350 and Friends of the Earth claimed that 3.9 per cent of the £2.17 billion Oxfordshire Pension Fund was invested in companies participating in fracking.

Karl Wallendszus from Oxford Friends of the Earth said: “That’s over £83,645,909... It’s shocking to see that Oxfordshire County Council Pension Fund is investing millions into the global fracking industry. As this industry tries to get a foothold in the UK, it’s crucial that our councils take a clear stand against fracking and divest from the companies responsible.”

Al Chisholm, from organisers Fossil Free Oxfordshire, added: “The pension fund’s investments in fossil fuel companies are not only bad for the climate but also risky for pensioners. Financial experts from the Governor of the Bank of England, to the President of the World Bank are warning that continued reliance on unburnable fossil fuel reserves by long-term investors is becoming very risky.”

Councillor Yvonne Constance, cabinet member for environment, was not immediately available for comment.

County Council spokesman Paul Smith disputed the premise of the protest and claimed that all councils in England (including those in Oxfordshire) are required by statute/law to be members of the Local Government Pension Scheme.

He said no council anywhere in the country could 'pull out' and that decision on the Oxfordshire Pension Fund are made by a committee that represents around 150 employers.

In a lengthy rebuttal, Mr Smith said: "The first duty of all Pension Fund Committees is to the membership of the scheme and that they cannot place ethical and other social, environmental and governance factors above the requirement to maximise the investment returns for a given level of risk.

"In its published Investment Strategy Statement, the Committee recognises that environmental, social and corporate governance issues, including climate change can have materially significant investment implications, and as a responsible investor the Committee therefore considers such issues in all investment decisions.

"The Committee believe that engaging with their investee companies on all issues to deliver long term change delivers a more responsible investment approach than a blanket decision to divest from any group of companies. Oxfordshire Pension Committee is working alongside the other Pension Funds within the Brunel Pension Partnership* to further develop their approach on these issues and to improve the reporting in this area, including demonstrating the impact of our engagement with the fossil fuel companies.

"The Brunel Pension Partnership manages pension funds for committees across Avon, Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset and Wiltshire and also the Environment Agency."

After the 'photo-action', participants moved to Cornmarket Street and carried out a short poll of passing shoppers. The question asked was: if you were investing pension money now would you put it into fossil fuels or renewables?

Organisers claim the result was 80 for renewables and zero for fossil fuels.

The global Rise for Climate actions are timed to coincide with the run up to the Global Climate Summit 2 in California on September 12.