Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Two more finance institutions divest from fossil fuels

Christine Tørklep Meisingset, Storebrand's Head of Sustainable Investments
Christine Tørklep Meisingset, Storebrand's Head of Sustainable Investments, said she believes the stocks will be “financially worthless” in the future.

Storebrand, a Norwegian financial services group, and Dutch bank Rabobank have become the latest companies to announce they will pull out of the investments in the fossil fuel industry, citing the stability of long-term investments as the major factor.

Storebrand has investments in 13 coal and six tar sands enterprises which it will let go. It said in a statement that it believes these stocks will be “financially worthless” in the future.

“If global ambitions to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius become a reality, many fossil fuel resources will become unburnable and their financial value will be dramatically reduced,” said Christine Tørklep Meisingset, Head of Sustainable Investments.

“Exposure to fossil fuels is one of the main sustainability challenges facing business, so for us it is a logical and necessary step to adjust our investments accordingly,” she said.

The decision was made public a day after a similar announcement from Rabobank, an ethical Dutch bank with a partnership with WWF. This institution, which specialises in financing agriculture and food businesses, has said it will no longer invest in shale gas or tar sands.

It said it believes that the risks of water and soil contamination from fracking, and the risks to biodiversity, ecosystems and local residents, are too high.

It will also refuse loans to farmers who decide to lease their land for such purposes.

The company cited a recent Duke University study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, of 414 one drinking water boreholes in Pennsylvania, a location where natural gas production increased by 69% in 2012, which found methane in 82% of samples. The claim is that nearby drilling has caused the gas to migrate into water.

The notion of the future worthlessness of present investments in fossil fuel extraction has been termed a 'carbon bubble'. The term comes from a March 2012 Carbon Tracker report, 'Unburnable Carbon'.

This found that the fossil fuel reserves owned by the top 100 listed coal and top 100 listed oil and gas companies would, if unleashed, emit a total of 745GtCO2, which represents five times the amount that can be burnt unabated, without catastrophic risk to the planet.

In other words, 80% of these assets are, according to current technology, unburnable.

Meisingset added: "We do not offer 'ethical funds' at Storebrand. The same high sustainability standards apply to each and every company and sector. This offers an unprecedented level of security for our clients. No matter which fund or portfolio their assets are invested in, the same high standards apply".

As a direct result of these higher standards for fossil fuels, all 13 coal producers in the Energy sector (MSCI All Countries index) are excluded from Storebrand’s portfolio. In addition, the exclusion covers the six oil companies that have the highest exposure to oil sands, measured by both actual production and reserves.

In total, Storebrand has excluded 177 companies and 32 countries for breaches of the company's minimum standard for sustainable investments.

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