Welcome to this week’s Media Roundup: a curated digest of top stories and major developments in the climate finance space.
Read on below.
Boston University will divest from fossil fuels, starting immediately, President Robert A. Brown announced on Thursday, a decision reached amid increasing proof that burning fossil fuels is accelerating the harmful effects of climate change—and after nearly a decade of campus activism and protests. “This has been a long journey within the BU community and the Board of Trustees,” Brown told BU Today. “This is putting us on the right side of history.”
Devon County Council will consider further divesting pension funds from fossil fuels. About a hundred members of the Youth Strike group Friday for Future Exeter marched from Bedford Square to meet campaigners from Divest Devon, who had been camped at County Hall since Wednesday, calling for divestment of Devon Pension Funds from Fossil Fuels. The activists claim Devon County Council has £117 million invested in the fossil fuel industry via their pension fund and are asking that it reinvests cash into greener alternatives.
A dozen organisations signed on to the Net-Zero Asset Owner Commitment, orchestrated by the Paris-Aligned Investment Initiative (PAII), late on Monday (20 September). PAII has garnered the support of 118 investors collectively representing around $34trn of assets to date. In signing the Net-Zero Asset Owner Commitment, organisations pledge to deliver net-zero emissions from their portfolios by 2050 or sooner. This, the PAII states, will require them to increase investment in low-carbon solutions and nature, and likely decreasing investment in high-carbon activities through divestment, engagement, or a combination of the two. As well as UK-based organisation Tesco Pension Investment, the London Pensions Fund Authority and Railpen, new joiners for the Net-Zero Asset Owner Commitment this week are AP Pension, AP3, AP7, the Church Pension Fund, Elo Mutual Pension Insurance Company, Ilmarinen, Lægernes Pension and PenSam.
At a recent board of trustees meeting, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas in Austin got the green light to add an ESG policy into its overall investment approach as ESG continues to become a central focus for individuals, investors, and businesses across the U.S. Staff of the $193.1 billion retirement system for Texas teachers found that 70% of large pension funds within the U.S. either have an independent ESG policy that is linked to the pension fund, or they have an ESG overlay that includes ESG language within the governing documents, reported Pensions and Investments.
The Archdiocese of Birmingham has divested from companies which extract fossil fuels with immediate effect, cementing its commitment to action in the climate emergency. The Archdiocese has changed its policy to exclude investments in any company which derives more than 5% of its revenues from fossil fuels and is joining the ranks of all those who have committed to attaining net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Divestment in fossil fuels is one of the first steps of many which we will take to ensure that we will not fund the industries which destroy God’s creation and impact the poor.
Harvard University will keep phasing out all investments tied to oil, gas and coal, it announced on Sept. 9, 2021. When Larry Bacow, the school’s president, announced this plan, he cast it as a response to climate change – part of a broader trend that’s gaining steam among many large institutions with endowments. Climate activists on and off Harvard’s campus called the announcement a victory in response to their yearslong campaign demanding fossil fuel divestment. Law professor Susan Gary of University of Oregon writes that this decision is a part of a bigger story.
Philadelphia’s leaders said all the right things when Hurricane Ida’s remnants left us submerged, promising they understood that the storm was painful proof that our city is not safe from the climate crisis. But some of our most important and wealthiest institutions aren’t putting their money where their mouth is. The city’s pension fund, the University of Pennsylvania, and the William Penn Foundation collectively have about $24 billion invested in the markets. But they continue to invest big chunks of that money in fossil fuel companies like Exxon and Chevron, companies who are both the principal drivers of the climate crisis and the chief impediments to solutions.
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (OTPP), Canada’s third-largest pension fund, announced on Thursday new interim targets to cut the carbon emissions intensity of its portfolio as part of a plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. OTPP, which manages C$227.7 billion ($180.11 billion) in assets, plans to reduce emissions intensity by 45% by 2025 and 67% by 2030, from 2019 levels.
The $8.2 billion MacArthur Foundation said on Wednesday it would divest from fossil fuel holdings with changes to its equity indexes, becoming the largest foundation to move money away from the oil and gas sector. Other institutions including Harvard University and the Maine state pension system have taken similar steps lately amid mounting climate change concerns, although some investors prefer to keep energy company shares to help find ways to cut emissions.
Columbia University announced on September 20 that it will no longer install new fossil fuel connections in any new construction, refresh, or renovation projects. To support this transition, the University will evaluate how to fully electrify the campus by replacing the onsite combustion of fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy sources. The University will continue to enhance its planning, design, and construction practices to expedite the end of fossil fuel combustion on campus. These steps are essential if Columbia is to remain within maximum cumulative emissions targets on the way to becoming net zero by 2050, and, second, exceed the requirements of Local Law 97 in New York City.