UK National Trust to divest £1bn portfolio from fossil fuels

UK National Trust to divest £1bn portfolio from fossil fuels

July 4, 2019 0 By claycakes

Move by heritage body follows revelations last year about oil and gas investments

The National Trust is divesting its £1bn portfolio from fossil fuels in an attempt to help tackle the escalating climate crisis.

The organisation, which looks after 780 miles (1,250km) of coastline, 248,000 hectares (612,000 acres) of land and more than 500 historic houses, castles, monuments and parks, said it would withdraw the vast majority of its investments from fossil fuels within 12 months, and the entirety within three years.

A Guardian investigation last year revealed the trust had invested tens of millions of pounds in oil, gas and mining companies, despite having previously pledged to cut down its own use of fossil fuels and warning about the impact of climate change.

Hilary McGrady, the director general of the trust, said returns from its investments were vital to allow the organisation to “care for special places across the nation”.

But she added in the announcement on Wednesday: “The impacts of climate change pose the biggest long-term threat to the land and properties we care for, and tackling this is a huge challenge for the whole nation.

“We know our members and supporters are eager to see us do everything we can to protect and nurture the natural environment for future generations.”

The trust had announced in 2015 that none of its investments would be made directly in companies that “derive more than 10% of their turnover from the extraction of thermal coal or oil from oil sands”.

The trust said fossil fuel investments made up £45m of its portfolio.

The divestment campaign is gathering momentum around the world. Earlier this year, Norway’s national oil fund began to refocus on renewable energy. About two-thirds of the UK’s university pension funds, as well as other public pension funds, have also either divested or changed their rules, though some have retained their fossil fuel focus despite strong public pressure.

Other funds to have divested include the Irish infrastructure fund, the New York state pension fund, and Waltham Forest and Southwark councils in the UK.

Peter Vermeulen, the trust’s chief financial officer, said many organisations had been working hard to persuade fossil fuel companies to invest in green alternatives, without success.

“These companies have made insufficient progress and now we have decided to divest from fossil fuel companies,” he said.

“Now we will seek to invest in green startup businesses and other suitable portfolios that deliver benefits for the environment, nature and people.”

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