(Bloomberg) — The world’s fourth-largest pension pot — with about $1.9 trillion — is facing mounting calls to begin ditching fossil fuels.
UniSuper, which manages A$85 billion ($56 billion) in retirement savings for university researchers and academics in Australia, on Wednesday faced protests demanding the fund scrap investments in companies that are undermining the goals of the Paris climate agreement. The protests took place at an UniSuper-sponsored Universities Australia event in Canberra.
UniSuper “is directly undermining our work and our future by driving climate change through its continued funding of fossil fuels,” Florian Busch, who researches carbon dioxide absorption in plants at the Australian National University, said in a statement.
Offices of Health Employees Superannuation Trust Australia, known as HESTA, a fund managing A$55 billion in retirement savings for health and community services workers, also faced demands to take more action on climate change. Members occupied the building’s lobby in Melbourne on Wednesday to pressure it to divest of fossil fuels.
UniSuper declined to comment. HESTA met with the protest organizers to discuss their concerns, a spokesman said by phone.
The demonstrations are adding to pressure on custodians of Australia’s A$2.95 trillion retirement savings to catch up to peers like Europe’s Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP in cutting exposure to high-emitting companies. Those calls have gained traction after the nation’s deadly wildfires heightened concerns they are not doing enough to combat climate change.
Read More: Wildfires Are Forcing Aussie Pension Funds to Be More Green
The funds have so far resisted meaningful action, in part to not exclude a whole segment of the economy while trying to meet minimum return targets. While they have lifted investment in renewable energy projects, they also believe that by maintaining positions in climate-change offenders like Glencore Plc, they can pressure companies to start altering their practices.
Environmental activists and the funds’ own members say exerting influence isn’t sufficient. More than 10,000 people have signed an open letter demanding UniSuper scrap investments in firms that are expanding their fossil-fuel output.
“We don’t want our retirement dollars fueling the destruction of our planet,” Lucy Hopkins, a social sciences lecturer at Edith Cowan University said. “It is simply astounding we are having to go to such lengths to have our voices heard.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Burgess in Melbourne at [email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Edward Johnson at [email protected], Andreea Papuc, Adam Haigh
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