The carbon footprint of ABP’s investment portfolio actually increased by 5% last year, notwithstanding the €359bn Dutch pension fund’s recent efforts to reduce it.

Corien Wortmann-Kool, chair at the civil servant scheme, attributed the increase to “unintended effects” of its investments in relatively cheap energy companies. 

Presenting the pension fund’s annual report on sustainable investment, she took pains to emphasise that ABP would stand by its commitment to cut its carbon footprint by 25% by the year 2020.

She also conceded that APG, its asset manager, had lacked the most up-to-date carbon data last year.

“APG was accustomed to applying risk and return as its main criteria and then checking for sustainability and costs in a later phase,” she said.

“Sustainability now plays an equal role in every investment decision, which means processes and IT systems need to be adjusted.”

She said ABP had also given investors concrete carbon-reduction targets for individual portfolios.

Energy and mining companies are among ABP’s largest carbon emitters; the pension fund expects to offload stakes in more than 1,500 CO2 emitters to meet its reduction target.

The scheme’s efforts on sustainable investments and renewable energy remain on track, according to Wortmann-Kool. 

By 2020, the civil service scheme expects to have invested an additional €29bn in “solutions for environmental problems”, such as sustainable buildings and pharmaceutical companies that seek to make their products more accessible in poor countries.

The pension fund said it had already invested more than 37% of its €4bn commitment to renewable energy, including €180m in hydro power in Norway.

Through a hedge fund, it also invested in Spanish solar and wind energy companies that ran into trouble following the government’s abandonment of energy subsidies.

ABP said it had “saved” the companies in the process.