AMSTERDAM – Dutch pension fund ABP, one of the world’s largest, will divest 15 billion euros ($17.5 billion) of investments in fossil fuel producers by 2023, it said on Tuesday, citing concern over global warming.
The decision ahead of next week’s COP26 United Nations climate conference marks a major turnaround for the civil servants’ fund, which has 528 billion euros in assets under management.
As recently as June ABP had said that exiting fossil fuel investments was “not the solution” to global warming, despite pressure from environmental activists and a growing number of the fund’s own participants.
After the planned sale, which represents 3% of the fund’s total assets, ABP intends to increase investment in renewable energy where possible, 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.
The Dutch move came as asset managers Fidelity International and BlackRock also announced a tighter focus on emissions ahead of the COP26 talks in Scotland.
Announcing Tuesday’s decision, Wortmann cited concerns of fund participants and their employers.
“The ABP Board sees the need and urgency for a change of course,” she 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 that in the future the fund would focus on engagement with large consumers of fossil fuel 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)