Dutch pension giant spurns fossil fuels as funds shift before COP26

A leaf sits on top of a pile of coal in Youngstown, Ohio
A leaf sits on top of a pile of coal in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S., September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

AMSTERDAM/LONDON Oct 26 (Reuters) - Dutch pension fund ABP will divest 15 billion euros ($17.5 billion) of investments in fossil fuel producers by 2023, it said on Tuesday, as many of the world's biggest investors set out new climate policies ahead of next week's COP26 summit.

With policymakers gearing up for the talks aimed at accelerating action on global warming, financial firms from across the world are announcing new steps to help support the efforts.

ABP's move marks a major turnaround for one of the world's biggest pension funds, which said as recently as June that exiting fossil fuel investments was "not the solution" to global warming. read more

Many companies are pledging to get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century in line with the aims of the Paris Agreement on climate, though activists are concerned the pace of change is too slow.

On Tuesday, Fidelity International became the latest asset manager to announce shorter-term decarbonisation targets, planning to halve emissions from its investment portfolio by 2030. read more

"As a responsible investor, we must understand the carbon footprint of the portfolios we manage for our clients and work with the companies we invest in to reduce emissions," said Fidelity International's Global Head of Stewardship and Sustainable Investing Jenn-Hui Tan.

Also on Tuesday, asset manager BlackRock (BLK.N) said it had created the world's biggest climate-aligned exchange-traded equity fund range after the rules governing which stocks are included were toughened up. read more

The United Nations highlighted the need for faster change in energy production when it issued a 'code red for humanity' and warned climate change was close to spiralling out of control in August. read more


ABP, which is one of the world's biggest pension funds, plans to increase investment in renewable energy where possible after the fossil fuel asset sale, Chairman Corien Wortmann said in a statement.

Asked about the turnaround, Wortmann told national broadcaster NOS it had been prompted by rising concerns about climate change and the most recent UN climate report.

"The earth is projected to heat up by 1.5 degrees already within seven years. That means a radical chance is needed and that is partly the reason why we are now announcing this chance of course," Wortmann said.

"We (are parting) with our investments in fossil fuel producers because we see insufficient opportunity for us as a shareholder to push for the necessary significant acceleration of the energy transition at these companies."

She said the fund would focus on engagement with large fossil fuel consumers such as electricity companies and the automobile and aviation industries.

"Using our influence as a shareholder, ABP will encourage companies that use fossil fuels to become more sustainable."

The fund said it did not expect the decision to affect its long-term returns.

($1 = 0.8593 euros)

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Additional reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by David Goodman, Stephen Coates and Jan Harvey

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