UK Investors Expect Pensions to Avoid Fossil Fuels

Survey finds investors willing to leave funds that invest in fossil fuel projects.

Most UK investors would prefer to invest in funds that consider climate impacts to ones only focused on maximizing financial returns, according to a survey commissioned by ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law organization.

The survey investigated UK attitudes toward the role the financial system should play in addressing climate change, as well as how the government should respond. It polled 2,005 UK adults aged 18 and older, and the results were weighted to be representative of all UK adults.

“As climate lawsuits hit the mainstream,” said the report, “this polling makes clear that the British public has strong opinions about fossil fuel companies’ contribution to climate change through their activities and their lobbying against climate policies—and how those companies should be held accountable for it.”

The survey found that only two-fifths of those polled were aware that UK financial institutions may use customer investments to pay for fossil fuel projects. And more than 50% across all age groups said they would expect their pension or investments to avoid fossil fuel projects that contribute to climate change, and would consider moving them to another provider if they discovered that it was investing in companies that have a significant exposure to fossil fuels.

ClientEarth also said that 60% of those polled would be interested in a pension fund or financial institution that considers climate change impacts of the companies it invests in.  And when told that some scientists say 80% of the world’s current fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground, two-thirds said they thought investing in fossil fuel companies is a risky strategy for the long term.

The report also cited UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, which in May said that the figures for low-carbon energy investment show that there has been a “dramatic and worrying collapse since 2015 that threatens the UK’s ability to meet its carbon budgets.” It said that in cash terms, investment in clean energy fell by 10% in 2016 and 56% in 2017, and that annual investment in clean energy is now at its lowest since 2008.

“For too long fossil fuel investment has been built into our financial products by default, and it has been almost impossible for customers to extract their bank or pension savings from investments that are exacerbating climate change,” said

Danielle Lawson, a climate lawyer, in the report. “But with an increasing awareness of climate risk, we are now starting to witness a wave of public demand for financial products that can help to create a more sustainable and prosperous economy.”

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