The chairs of more than a dozen pension schemes have put their names to a net-zero statement of support, saying that in doing so “we are formalising our increased ambition and signaling our commitment to a net zero emissions, resilient future”.

The statement was coordinated by the Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S), which said that it “helps to amplify the influential voice of the pension fund chair in the run-up to COP26”. It has 14 initial signatories, all but one from UK pension schemes.

In the statement, the chairs said: “In our positions, we recognise that our ability to uphold our fiduciary duty in providing long-term, risk-adjusted returns to our members is threatened by the impact of climate change both now and in the future.

“Our responsibilities include driving capital towards positive outcomes, being a catalyst for innovation and opportunity, helping to finance the transition to a net zero global economy, investing in resilience to protect against physical risks and restore nature, and leveraging our influence across the investment chain.”

Signatories* include Otto Thoresen, chair of the BT Pension Scheme, Russell Picot, chair of HSBC Bank Pension Trust (UK) Limited, and Rory Murphy, chair of the board of trustees of the Merchant Navy Officers Pension Fund.

Some of the signatories are at pension investors that have already made a public net-zero commitment – BT Pension Scheme, for example, is targeting net-zero portfolio emissions by 2035 – while for others the statement is the first such move.

“Several pension and retirement schemes have already made ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments,” the statement read, adding that these included commitments to achieve net zero emissions across the scheme’s portfolio by a certain year or reductions in line with the Science Based Targets initiative.

“As a group of pension and retirement scheme chairs, we commit to build on this, and to work collectively to share our experiences and practices with others.”

If their funds have not already done so, the signatories say that within the next 12 months they will commit to setting net-zero targets to align their investment portfolios with a 1.5°C pathway.

Many of the signatories are members of A4S’s Asset Owners Network, with which it has worked to develop guidance for trustees on the steps towards setting net zero investment strategies.

Separately, Pension Insurance Corporation (PIC), an insurer of defined benefit schemes, today announced a commitment to be net-zero by 2050 across all sources of emissions, including within its £50bn (€59bn) investment portfolio.

It has joined the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance. This means it must set, and report against, intermediate portfolio emission reduction targets every five years.

Last week, the founder and CEO of specialist asset manager Impax, plus its head of policy and advocacy, challenged the focus on getting asset managers and asset owners to adopt an explicit decarbonisation target or trajectory on the path to becoming “net-zero”.

A better approach, they said, would be to ask that they become “net-zero aligned”.

First signatories of A4S Pension Fund Net Zero Statement of Support:

  • Otto Thoresen, Chair, British Telecom (BT) Pension Scheme
  • Russell Picot, Chair, HSBC Bank Pension Trust (UK) Limited
  • Peter Goshawk, Chair, Barclays UK Retirement Fund
  • Denise Le Gal, Chair, Brunel Pension Partnership, LGPS pool
  • The Honourable Nicola Roxon, Chair, Health Employees Superannuation Trust Australia (HESTA)
  • Ruston Smith, Chairman, Tesco PLC Pension Scheme
  • Chris Hitchen, Chair of the Investment Committee, National Employment Savings Trust (Nest)
  • Councilor John Mounsey, Chair, South Yorkshire Pensions Authority, South Yorkshire Pension Fund
  • Tony Ashford, Chair, Unilever UK Pension Fund
  • Robert Gould, Chair, Pensions Committee, Environment Agency Pension Fund
  • Rory Murphy, Chair of MNOPF Board of Trustees, Merchant Navy Officers Pension Fund
  • Chris Martin, Executive Chairman of ITS (acting as Professional Corporate Sole Trustee), Atos UK 2019 Pensions Scheme
  • Ken Woodier, Chairman, Pennon Group Pension Scheme
  • Andrew Warwick-Thompson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Scottish Widows Master Trust

The statement can be found here.

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