Members of Extinction Rebellion have announced they are to speak at a meeting – on Friday – of the Avon Pension Fund Investment Panel. It’s being held at the Guildhall and the group will be asking the fund to redouble its efforts to eliminate its investments in fossil fuels.
They will also hold a peaceful outreach event outside with a large banner.
Dave Searby of XR Bath said “We are seeing the dire impacts of climate change now – witness the severe flooding in Africa and Australia and extreme high temperatures in India. Whilst we acknowledge the progress made by APF in reducing the climate intensity of the fund, their commitment “to become a carbon-neutral pension fund by 2050 or earlier” just does not match the severity of the situation. Furthermore, the war in Ukraine has shown the danger of our reliance on oil and gas-rich countries.”
According to research by the campaign group UK Divest at the end of 2020, the fund’s total fossil fuel investments were over £100 Million. This is likely to be a conservative (low) estimate.
The fund’s preferred approach so far has been engagement with fossil fuel companies instead of complete divestment. Bath XR believes it is clear this approach has failed.
Pension funds have been engaging with the fossil fuel industry for three decades with little apparent progress.
This is shown by the recent behaviours of some of the largest companies:
Shell is the fossil fuel company most heavily invested in by Local Government Pension funds. Shell has set a target of reaching net-zero by 2050, with an interim target of cutting the carbon intensity of its output by 20% by the end of this decade. However, according to Shell’s plan, reaching this 2030 target is hugely reliant on the use of carbon offsets, such as planting trees, and would require more offsets than are currently available in the entire global market.
In May 2021, a Dutch court ruled that Shell must cut its net carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. The ruling noted that Shell’s current target of a 20% reduction is not sufficient to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C, which would not be in line with the Paris Agreement. Shell has since confirmed that it will appeal the ruling. Surely any company truly committed to net-zero would not appeal against a legally binding, independent court ruling that says they must make their operations Paris-aligned?
BP is the fossil fuel company second most heavily invested in by Local Government Pension Funds. In 2000, BP briefly renamed itself ‘beyond petroleum. Twenty years later 96% of BP’s annual capital expenditure was still on oil and gas.
Even under its “net-zero by 2050” plan, BP still plans on producing 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, including new expansion plans that go directly against clear guidance from the IEA that says we must end all new exploration now. Clearly, BP has not moved beyond anything.
The world’s 60 largest banks financed nearly $4tn in fossil fuel projects between 2016 and 2020, according to a March report from a coalition of climate organisations including the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Sierra Club, BankTrack and more. Much of this money is lent to banks by pension funds.
A recent investigation has shown that the world’s biggest fossil fuel firms are quietly planning scores of “carbon bomb” oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits with catastrophic global impacts.