Further to the climate demonstration reported last week, the West Sussex County Council spokesperson effectively absolves the Pension Panel of responsibility for their investments in fossil fuel by stating the fund managers are signatories of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).
It is worth noting that the UN PRI is an entirely voluntary scheme and there are no targets or expectations for fund managers to show any Environmental, Social or Corporate Governance (ESG).
The UN PRI is effectively a set of guidelines whereby signatory financial institutions can show (or not) some interest in ESG issues.
The UN PRI published a report in October, 2016, which noted that ‘despite significant progress, many investors have yet to fully integrate ESG issues into their investment decision-making processes’.
Overall, these voluntary professions of action are not amounting to much in the real world. Our global carbon emissions, the exploitation and exploration for fossil fuels is continuing to increase. We do not have the planetary capacity to cope with these emissions.
Divestment from fossil fuel holdings is morally and financially prudent. By continuing to maintain fossil fuel holdings, West Sussex County Council is complicit in increasing carbon emissions, pushing us towards climate scenarios above two degrees Celcius, which is not in line with the UK-ratified Paris Agreement.
If the UK is serious about hitting the scenarios laid down in the Paris Agreement and our own Climate Change Act, then divestment of fossil fuel companies is critical.
Funds which are ethically invested are outperforming those that aren’t. These funds need to be released from polluters, to ignite the innovation and investment needed for the necessary transformation to zero carbon by 2030.
The growth and opportunities presented by the rapid infrastructure upgrade is significant across all sectors based on conservative estimates. Our county and country has much to gain by embracing and embarking on this journey.
Michelle Furtado, Director, FuturEcoLogic Ltd, Mill Road, Worthing