Campaign ramps up to pressure one of Canada’s largest pension firms to ditch fossil fuels

People are pushing the investment firm that manages BC’s public sector workers’ retirement savings to take roughly $2 billion out of fossil fuels by the end of the year.

The British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI) holds a total of $199.6 billion in managed assets and oversees the retirement savings of teachers, nurses, municipal workers and other government workers of the province, according to place.

Oil Sands Divestment worked with people from the public sector to start the Campaign, whose aim is to put pressure on BCI to get rid of an industry whose product is the main driver of climate change by writing letters and pressuring the unions to get rid of it. The consensus is clear, he says: We should stop funding new fossil fuel projects, scale back existing ones, and invest in renewable energy.

Patrick DeRochie, senior manager at Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health, has been working for the past several years to convince Ontario pension plans to ditch fossil fuels. He said there has been an increase in interest from people in BC who want to do the same.

“Increasingly we hear that public sector workers don’t want their retirement savings invested in oil and gas companies that are making the future uninhabitable with their own savings, (and) whose business model is completely inconsistent with your own retirement security. ,” he said.

In a statement to Canadian National ObserverBCI Vice President Gwen-Ann Chittenden said the firm does not believe divestment is “an effective strategy to address persistent and long-term ESG (environmental, social and governance) risks, as it transfers assets from one investor to another. another without contributing to the solutions.”

“Ownership gives BCI the right to raise concerns and influence companies. Through engagement, we encourage companies to adopt goals aligned with the Paris Agreement and improve climate-related disclosure and performance,” Chittenden said.

“Our efforts are focused on companies where we believe there are opportunities to create additional value for our clients, while supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

For DeRochie, that response avoids taking any real responsibility.

“Often this debate comes up as compromise versus divestment. But we really think those are two sides of the same coin… divestment is just part of a strong engagement strategy,” he said.

@ODivestment worked with people in the public sector to launch the campaign, which aims to put pressure on BCI to ditch an industry whose product is the main driver of climate change by writing letters and lobbying unions to ditch.

“And when BCI falls back on the argument, saying that ‘We need to invest in oil and gas because we’re a responsible investor and we have a seat at the table and we can help you reduce your emissions,’ we don’t see any evidence that that’s actually happening. ”.

Oil Sands Divestment said BCI has not shown examples of how its commitment is leading oil and gas companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and notes no fossil fuel company has a strong climate plan.

The call to action is not the first. In February, the BC Federation of Teachers published a release saying it was about time the union took his pension money out of fossil fuels.

A 2018 UVic study it also looked at BCI’s holdings and found that if the company doesn’t get its money out of fossil fuels, investors could be left with less money than they thought for retirement. At the time of publication, the report estimated that more than $3 billion of BCI holdings were invested in the top 200 publicly traded oil and gas companies.

It’s hard to know exactly how much BCI has invested in fossil fuels, DeRochie said, because the company doesn’t disclose all of its investments. Nevertheless, research of Corporate Knights found that BCI may have lost a total of $17,876 per plan member between 2010 and 2021 due to its energy actions.

Investing in renewable energy like wind and solar instead of fossil fuels will actually benefit investment portfolios in the long run, as well as being a necessary step in limiting global warming. DeRochie said BCI should think about this because it has a fiduciary duty or obligation to act in the best interests of its pension plan members, young and old.

“They have a long-term investment horizon where they have to take responsibility for both an 85-year-old member who has already collected their pension, as well as a 25-year-old member who could have started working and put those savings away,” he said.

“… We do not believe that investing in the main causes of the climate crisis (oil, gas, coal and pipelines) can be consistent with that fiduciary duty.”

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