17 Feb 2020
Debate

Pension versus Planet: Investments in the Fossil Fuel Industry.

Together with UM’s pension fund ABP, Fossil Free Maastricht, and professor Rob Bauer (SBE), Sustainable UM2030 is organising a debate about the question whether ABP should divest or engage with fossil fuel companies. Should ABP do more than it is currently doing? Or are they on the right track already? These and other questions will be discussed in a panel debate. The floor is open for all staff members as they build up a pension with ABP. Students are welcome as well.

Fossil Free

Fossil Free is a global movement campaigning for a just transition away from fossil fuels and an end to the power of the fossil fuel industry. Because if we are to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis, the production and use of fossil fuels must be drastically reduced worldwide. As part of its campaign, Fossil Free calls on public institutions all across the world to stop giving this industry financial and political support. To date, over 1000 institutions have already divested more than $1 trillion from the fossil fuel industry.

Fossil Free Maastricht is the local Fossil Free group, whose members include UM employees and students. They are campaigning for UM’s pension fund ABP to stop financing the fossil fuel industry by investing in oil and gas giants like Shell, ExxonMobil, and Total. Pension funds like ABP hold a great deal of financial power, but also a great deal of responsibility towards their participants and the safeguarding of their future. Currently, ABP holds €16,5 billion in fossil fuel companies. In particular, Fossil Free are calling on ABP to make no new fossil fuel investments and to stop investing in fossil fuel companies completely—to ‘divest’—within 2 years. Fossil Free Maastricht are also calling on UM to take a public stand on behalf of its staff and students calling on ABP to do this.

ABP

ABP's duty as a pension fund is to ensure a good pension for their 2.9 million participants. Also to make sure that they invest in a sustainable and responsible manner. To that end ABP has developed a number of policies and measurable targets, including carbon footprint reduction in listed equity, targets on investments in renewable energy and in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and driving energy-efficiency in real estate and infrastructure. ABP is an active shareholder, and exercises their voting rights and engages with companies in order to foster corporate action aligned with the Paris Climate agreement, amongst others through the Climate Action 100+ initiative. ABP also engages with policy-makers and regulators to ensure a policy environment in support of the climate

ABP sustainable and responsible investment policy has measurable objectives by 2020: an reduction of 25% of CO2 emission in their investment portfolio, a target of 5 billion renewable energy investments and 58 billon in sustainable developments investments. ABP has an active inclusion policy in which they classify the companies in leaders and ‘beloften’ in how sustainable they are. The category ‘beloften’ are companies which has to improve to become more sustainable. The category that has plans to change will be engaged to in order to influence these companies to improve. In this way they try to create awareness amongst the companies and their philosophy is to do that in close collaboration with companies and that takes time. ABP also invests in projects that contribute to sustainable development in other ways, for example in sustainable agriculture, less food waste and better education for (especially) girls.

Maastricht University

As a university, we cannot influence what our pension fund (which is ABP) invests in directly. However, we do think it is important to have an open discussion about it. Moreover, UM researchers have done extensive research on sustainable investments of financial institutions. That is why we want to invite you to a debate about divestment. We would like to give you, employees of UM, the opportunity to learn about ABP’s investment policy and we include researchers from Maastricht University on responsible investments to form an opinion about that. Of course you are welcome to bring in your own opinion during the debate.