Several members of the Fossil Free action group and a number of Dutch teachers staged a protest outside one of the offices of €466bn civil service scheme ABP yesterday to demand it divest from fossil fuel companies in four years’ time.

The Netherlands’ largest pension fund has some €17.4bn invested in oil and gas and thermal coal companies. “This money is the mandatory pensions savings of teachers and civil servants,” the Fossil Free activists wrote in a petition they delivered to ABP.

The document had been signed 1,131 times by this morning (Tuesday).

The activists asked ABP to blacklist companies active in thermal coal, oil sands and shale gas by the end of next year while they demanded the scheme to divest from all fossil fuel companies by 31 December 2024.

ABP’s strategy currently only excludes investments in tobacco and nuclear weapons.

An ABP spokesperson told IPE the pension fund is “just as committed as the protesters” to reaching a world free of fossil fuels.

“We appreciate it when people are so involved with how their pension savings are being invested, but we prefer to engage with companies, trying to stimulate them to make the transition to renewable energy, rather than simply divest from them,” she added.

Monitoring commission

The protesters also asked for the installation of an independent commission to monitor whether ABP reduces the carbon footprint of its portfolio by enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Asked about the introduction of such a commission, ABP said: “We are going to look into it as this [emission monitoring] is an extremely important topic to us, and talk with the protestors to ask them what it is they exactly want,” the spokesperson said.

The protesters also want ABP to include indirect (scope 3) emissions to determine the carbon footprint of their investment portfolios.

The scheme, however, said this is currently not feasible because of a lack of reliable emission data. “This is difficult to realise in practice because it involves having to add up emissions from different parts of the supply chain,” the spokesperson said.

“If you add up scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions you currently end up double counting some of the emissions which we want to avoid,” she explained.

Fossil Free is not the first activist group to call on ABP to divest from fossil fuels. More than four years ago, the late Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan wrote a letter to the pension fund asking to end its investments to companies with links to fossil fuels “within a reasonable time-frame”.

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