Super funds heeding Green call

Superannuation funds are paying attention to the demands of environmental action groups and reducing or slashing their investment in fossil fuels, Responsible Investment Association of Australasia chief executive, Simon O'Connor claims.

In an opinion piece published in The Guardian this week, O'Connor said that political inaction had prompted a change in tactics by environmentalists and heap pressure on investors to reduce their funding for non-environmentally friendly companies.

"With domestic political action on climate change in Australia stubbornly stuck in reverse gear, environment groups are looking to other avenues to influence climate action and they've chosen finance as the next target," he said.

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"Today, there are more than ten environment groups in Australia with finance sector focused campaigns."

While a number of super funds, including HESTA and UniSuper had made commitments to avoid investing in fossil fuel projects, and funds including Australian Ethical, Hunter Hall and Future Super had entirely limited their investments in coal, gas and oil, O'Connor said that investors needed to drive the move towards more environmentally sustainable investments.

"Australian's concerned about climate change need to step up and tell the managers of their investments, or choose a manager who is managing these risks well," he said.

"By demonstrating demand for action, this will spur on more action by more investors.

"We [also] need to acknowledge and encourage more of the action that is underway across the whole spectrum of investor responses to climate change.

"There is simply no silver bullet response to this complex problem that is climate change.

"The power is really in the public's hands to reward those who are responding to climate change — this is the democratisation of capital, an emerging and unstoppable force."

O'Connor's opinion piece also noted that 27 Australian investors were among the 350 institutions who signed up to the United Nations' Investor Statement on Climate Change, calling on governments to provide stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing that would help redirect investment commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge, as well as to develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.

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