ABP announced this policy change on Tuesday. Action groups have been trying for years to influence the pension fund for the public and education sector, and the universities themselves got involved too.
Shares in fossil fuels are good for roughly three percent of ABP’s total securities portfolio, representing a value of 15 billion euros. According to ABP, the sale will not have an adverse effect on pensions.
For many decades climate scientists and activists have warned of global warming caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. However, only the most recent climate assessment reports are said to have given the decisive impulse for the change of course.
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Previously, the pension fund hoped to remain in discussion with oil and gas companies as a shareholder to persuade them to adopt a greener course, but that policy has been abandoned. “We do not believe that our influence as a shareholder is sufficient to get these companies to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy”, is the explanation. “We are also complying with the request by a number of groups of pension fund participants and employers to withdraw from the fossil fuel industry.”
The pension fund is, however, continuing to invest in major consumers of fossil energy and aims to encourage them to switch more quickly from fossil fuels to renewable sources, a list of questions and answers reveals. “In that respect we are looking mainly at companies in the automotive, aviation and power generation industries.”
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ABP also has shares in “fossil fuel production and storage facilities”, according to an interview with Board Chair Corien Wortmann. “We want to divest those as well, but that will take more time.”
ABP is Europe’s largest pension fund and one of the largest anywhere in the world. It is compulsory for employees in the public and education sectors in the Netherlands to join the fund. One in six Dutch people receives a pension from ABP or will do so in the future, says the fund.
The previous target was a fully climate-neutral investment portfolio by 2050. The explanation at the time was that ABP did not want to take any big financial risks. “If we impose too many restrictions on our investors, it could be to the detriment of the yield.”
Climate action group Fossielvrij (Fossil free) is among those that are happy with the news. “We owe this mega-victory to years of campaigning by teachers, civil servants, water board officials, scientists, police officers and young people”, the group tweeted.