Welcome to this week’s Media Roundup: a curated digest of top stories and major developments in the climate finance space.
Read on below.
Divest U.Va. released a petition Oct. 8 demanding that the University pull endowment funds from fossil fuels in its second letter to administration this year. Divest U.Va., a group composed of students and student organizations, has been fighting for climate justice through fossil fuel divestment since 2015. Divest U.Va. last wrote an open letter to the Board of Visitors in May 2020 calling for the University’s full divestment from fossil fuels, but given the ongoing pandemic, the organization decided to delay certain advocacy efforts so that the University could prioritize providing pandemic-related support.
In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank, Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey is to argue the multi-trillion pound retirement savings across the world can become a global “superpower” in the battle for a greener planet. Her address will coincide with the Government setting out plans to align UK pension rules with the 2015 Paris Accord goal to limit global temperature increase to 1.5C. The proposals, to be published in a Whitehall consultation document tomorrow, are designed to mobilise billions of pounds of UK pension savings behind the effort to curb climate change. And a report from Friends of the Earth will reveal that UK pension funds have an estimated £128 billion invested in fossil fuels, equivalent to nearly £2,000 for every person in the country.
Harvard University President Larry Bacow may have been unable to bring himself to use the word itself. But when his email landed in the inboxes of Harvard students last month, its message couldn’t have been clearer: The university was at last divesting—cutting oil, gas, and coal from the investment portfolio of its $53 billion endowment. For a planet growing hotter by the day, the announcement came as a historic victory. And it also came as a historic victory for a movement whose activism, after years of campaigning, protesting, and organizing, had finally forced the hand of the world’s richest university.
Glasgow councillors are expected to affirm their commitment to divest from fossil fuels use and invest in a more sustainable future for the city. This Thursday a proposal to sign the C40 declaration to move city assets away from fossil fuels was presented to members of the administration committee. The plan commits Glasgow to becoming carbon neutral and for the local authority to investigate the membership of international climate action groups just weeks before Glasgow hosts world leaders at the Cop26 conference.
With the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) approaching, financial institutions are increasingly focused on gauging the risks related to climate change. We investigated how various climate scenarios could impact the credit risk of portfolios. Our model-based analysis showed that, for a large sample of issuers of USD- and EUR-denominated bonds, about 16% of investment-grade issuers could experience a migration to high yield, while an additional 27% of the high-yield issuers could be downgraded under a “Net-Zero 2050 (Average Extreme Weather)” scenario. With the “Climate Biennial Exploratory Scenario” published last June,1 the Bank of England set the trend in the assessment of climate-related financial risks, with other central banks following suit. As these stress tests are focusing on the banking book, credit risk from lending activities is the most important focus.
Cal Poly has been recognized as a leader in sustainability, but one factor taints this title — fossil fuel investment. The fight against fossil fuel investment is spreading across San Luis Obispo and the California State University (CSU) system, as a group of students are calling for these universities to divest from fossil fuels. Months after graduating with a major in physics and an environmental studies minor in winter 2020, Cal Poly alumna Lisa Swartz formed “Divest the CSU,” a CSU-wide student-led coalition calling for all CSU campuses to divest its endowments, corporations and other university-affiliated accounts from fossil fuels.
The $16 billion Ford Foundation will divest from fossil fuels and steer assets to additional climate-friendly investments. Going forward, it will invest in funds that address the threat of climate change, and support the transition to a green economy, the New York-based foundation announced Monday. Further details were not provided.
On Tuesday, October 26, a coalition of organizations, cities and advocates will announce that the fossil fuel divest-invest movement has reached a game-changing new milestone and will reveal new significant institutional commitments ahead of the international climate talks (COP26). Building on a recent wave of new divestment announcements from thought and financial leaders such as Harvard University, Boston University, California State University, the MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Caisses de Depots, and La Banque Postale, these developments demonstrate the fossil fuel divestment movement has reached a threshold moment. The event will feature mayors, leaders of religious institutions and foundations, and movement activists.
New York City’s retirement funds pledged to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across its investment portfolios by 2040, becoming one of the first cities to do so. The plans call for doubling investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and other climate-related solutions to more than $8 billion by 2025, according to a statement Wednesday from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. By 2035, the allocation will exceed $37 billion.