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Boost for fossil fuel divestment as UK eases pension rules

Pension schemes will be free to dump fossil fuel investments after government drops 'best returns' legal rules

The government is to allow Britain's £2tn workplace pension schemes to dump their shares in oil, gas and coal companies more easily, empowering them to take investment decisions to fight climate change.

Until now, pension schemes have been hamstrung by "fiduciary duties" that effectively require schemes to seek the best returns irrespective of the threat of climate change. Many have rebuffed calls by members for fossil fuel divestment, citing legal obligations. The rules are expected to come into force next year after a consultation period and will bring into effect recommendations made in 2014 and earlier this year by the Law Commission.

Guy Opperman, the minister for pensions and financial inclusion, said: "Putting social value at the heart of our pensions system is something that is deeply important to Theresa May's government. Thanks to these new regulations, savers will finally have the clear opportunity to have their say on where their money is invested and can reflect what is personally important to them, whilst delivering mutual benefits."

About £87bn a year pours into Britain's pension schemes, with a significant proportion of it automatically invested into gas and oil companies such as BP and Shell. But a growing body of academic and investment research suggests that reserves of fossil fuels could become "stranded assets" and virtually worthless as countries battle climate change.

Once mocked by the conventional asset management industry, divestment from fossil fuels has moved beyond charity and religious groups into the investment mainstream. In November, the managers of the world's biggest wealth fund, Norway's sovereign $1tn fund, recommended divesting from existing oil and gas shares - it holds $5.4bn of Shell shares and $3bn in Exxon - as well as ruling out future investments. 

Source: BusinessGreen


Päivitetty/Updated: 18.12.2017

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