Seize Your Power  

What my pension fund, retirement plan, job, birth country and home have in common

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Zoë Caron, Campaign Lead – Internal Stategy, Seize Your Power, WWF’s GCEI

Statoil AGM

This week a new report came out from the Carbon Tracker Initiative, revealing that there is $1.1 trillion USD of investment between now and 2025 that are at high risk if the world begins to take climate change seriously.  This organization focuses on finance, and putting the risks of climate change into language that investors can understand.

From the possible scenarios, WWF believes we must only consider the scenarios in which we take climate change seriously, if we want a world at all.

In response on Monday, Norwegian private pension fund provider (and, more importantly, my pension fund provider) Storebrand called on investors to divest from Canada’s oil sands. Storebrand itself has already divested from over 19 coal and oil sand companies because of their high emissions and the responsibility to act on climate change. Storebrand is one of the few asset managers in the world to lead in this perspective. As my pension fund provider, that makes me proud.

Arild WWF NorgeYesterday, my colleague who sits down the hall from me here in Oslo, Arild Skedsmo of WWF stood in front of Statoil, Norway’s state oil company. He presented WWF-Norway‘s shareholder proposal for Statoil to end its operations in Canada’s oil sands. From a financial perspective, Carbon Tracker says that oil companies, including Statoil, can create greater value for its shareholders by investing in projects that cost less and have lower risk.

Continuing to develop the highest risk and highest polluting oil projects around the world, including Canada’s tarsands? “It is beyond justifiable if we are to reach the 2 C target,” said Tørklep Meisingset, Head of Sustainability Analysis at Storebrand in an interview this week in Aftenposten.  As a Canadian in Norway, my Canadian Pension Plan remains invested in the oil sands. Last February I spent hours on the phone until I ensured that every penny of my own Registered Retirement Savings Plan was removed from any coal, oil or gas project.

We now know that 2/3 of fossil fuels must remain underground if the world is to avoid runaway climate change. We know climate change is already happening and that the window for action is ever tightening. We also know that the energy infrastructure in place by 2017 may well define our future climate change path. And we know that climate change threatens the extinction of 1/3 of animal species on the planet.

That’s just part of why WWF is calling on governments and financial institutions globally to increase investment in clean, renewable energy. We must also end all new investment in coal, oil or gas. And all existing investment in coal, oil and gas must be phased out. We will build a better world. We will power the world with nature – with clean, renewable power.

These changes need to happen fast. And they can happen fast. As the late Wangari Maathai said, “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called upon to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground.”

Let me tell you one more thing: It’s happened.

Since June last year:

  • Three of the world’s development banks virtually ended investments in coal power – the World Bank, European Investment Bank, & the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development.
  • Eight countries promised to end financing coal power overseas – the US, UK, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland & Iceland.
  • The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund in Norway has started a review of its coal, oil & gas investments in the face of climate change.
  • And last week, the Prime Minister of Norway’s own political party passed a proposal that they would work for a mandate for that same fund to invest directly in renewable energy.

These are major shifts – major is good, major is momentum. Now we need exemplary: Exemplary is the scale we need to meet the challenge of climate change.

And so today that’s what we face. That’s also my work, and my organization’s work. That’s also the work of my pension fund, and my own investment decisions. That’s what the Prime Minister of the country I live in spoke about last Friday, and what the Prime Minister of my home country will have to think about as he faces national economic decisions on an oil project with global consequences.

And as some people will also remind me, this is also about the kind of world we’ll retire into. But, frankly, let’s worry about that later. The work, decisions and investments made in the next two to three years may well define the rest.

Let’s get going.

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