Jeffrey Beall / CC BY-SA 2.0

The pension funds relied on for financial security in old age by millions of teachers, public sector workers, health care workers and academics are in jeopardy as the price of coal plumments and a global campaign to divest from businesses that deal in the fuel gains steam.

The Guardian reports:

The Guardian examined the ownership of the biggest 50 publicly traded coal companies, ranked by the reserves held which in total are equivalent to more than 11 years of global emissions. This alone could push the planet past beyond the 2C of climate change deemed dangerous by the world’s governments.

A fast-growing, global fossil fuel divestment movement, backed by the Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground campaign, is having particular success in persuading investors to dump coal stocks. The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, held by Norway, decided earlier this month to sell off more than $8bn of coal assets. …

The coal price has crashed by 60% since 2011, as gas, renewable energy and climate policies have damaged demand. Tom Sanzillo, a former New York State comptroller who oversaw a $156bn pension fund, said: “Coal is arguably the worst performing sector in the whole world. Pension funds, which have a fiduciary duty to make money, have no business owning any of these companies. It is not a prospective risk, it is a now risk.” …

The Guardian analysis has uncovered large coal holdings by some of the world’s largest pension funds, with the largest held by South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which provides government pensions for millions. It has an $8bn stake which represents a huge 6.1% of all its funds: most large funds have significantly less than 1%.

Other pension funds with significant coal stakes include: APG ($1.7bn), which provides pensions for one in five families in the Netherlands; TIAA-CREF ($838), the US pensions giant which serves 5 million teachers and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB – $590m), which provide the country’s state pension for 18 million people.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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