The head of one of Denmark’s biggest pension funds has made clear it is politicians who have the best tools to cut greenhouse gas emissions, while reporting that the fund itself has knocked a fifth of its carbon impact in the last year.

Sampension, which ranks third in size among the country’s competing labour-market pension providers, announced in annual results that it had shrunk the carbon footprint of its equity portfolio by 20% in 2019 and excluded 54 coal firms during the year from its investment universe as part of its new climate strategy.

Hasse Jørgensen said: “Global legislation, taxation and other economic incentives are the most effective means of limiting greenhouse gas emissions, but development is not progressing fast enough and more efforts are needed to achieve the goals set in the Paris Agreement.”

Sampension said that alongside the new climate strategy it announced last month - under which it is pledging to cut the climate impact of equity investments significantly, cut its fossil fuel-related investments in the next few years and ban firms with more than 30% of revenue from coal or tar sands extraction -  it is also expanding its engagement programme.

This will involve companies also being assessed based on their ability to be part of the green transition, Sampension said.

“We want to work with all our investments under the same goal of influencing business to limit the negative impact on climate and the environment, and now we are dealing with our listed shares,” said Jørgensen.

In financial results for 2019, the pension fund group said returns on market-rate pensions rose to 10.8% overall from the previous year’s 1.7% loss. It said 2019 had been as “fantastic investment year” for pension savers, when risk taking had produced significant profits.

Total assets grew to DKK339bn last year from DKK303bn in 2018, and the firm’s total return on investments for last year came in at DKK24bn.

The provider also saw strong business expansion last year, with membership across all schemes rising 19% in 2019 to 317,088, and contributions growing by 32% year-on-year to DKK11.3bn in 2019.

Figures had been boosted by the entry of engineers’ pension fund ISP Pension into the group on 1 July, Sampension said.

The Copenhagen-based provider manages pensions via its main life and pensions operation Sampension Liv and two other pension funds alongside newcomer ISP Pension - the Architects’ Pension Fund (Arkitekternes Pensionskasse) and the Pension Fund for Agricultural Academics and Vets (Pensionskassen for Jordbrugsakademikere og Dyrlæger).