Top UK fund manager divests from fossil fuels

15th May 2017 | Commercial Energy

One of Britain’s biggest managers of ethical funds is to dump £20m of shares in fossil fuel companies. This is one of the biggest divestments so far because of climate change.

Shares in BHP Billiton, the Anglo-Australian mining giant, will be among those sold by BMO Global Asset Management’s range of “responsible” funds, which manage £1.5bn of assets. They were previously known as the “stewardship” funds, the first ethical funds launched in Britain.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, played a crucial role in the divestment as president of BMO’s responsible investment council. The Church of England has already pulled out of investing in companies which make more than 10% of its revenues from thermal coal or oil from tar sands.

BMO’s divestment goes further, banning all companies with fossil fuel reserves from being in its responsible funds range.

Fossil Fuels

It is estimated that the world can afford to burn between one-fifth and one-third of proven reserves before there is a reasonable chance of tipping the planet over the 2C danger threshold of warming. This has prompted campaigners to demand pension and investment funds sell shares in oil and coal companies.

BMO director Vicki Bakshi said, “If all current known reserves are extracted and burnt, we know that the world would not meet the 2 degree temperature limit established under the Paris Agreement. As such, we have come to the view that investment in companies with fossil fuel reserves is increasingly incompatible with the ethical and sustainability objectives of the responsible strategies range that we run.”

Bahshi said BMO would use its voice to encourage companies and policymakers to adopt strategies to make a transition to a low-carbon global economy. BMO’s divestment comes amid widening concerns by big financial institutions about holding shares in greenhouse gas-intensive sectors.

More than $5tn in institutional assets, such as pension funds, now have some sort of divestment strategy in place. And one third of UK investors say they would like a fossil-free option for their savings.

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