THE Church of England Pensions Board is leading a powerful coalition of investors which is challenging multinational companies to stop supporting trade associations and lobbying groups opposed to the Paris climate agreement.
The $2-trillion worth of investors, led by the Church and the Swedish national pension fund AP7, have targeted 55 companies with high greenhouse-gas emissions who were found to be inconsistent in their climate policy by a charity that monitors lobbying activity.
Companies targeted include some of the world’s best-known car producers, including Volvo and BMW, the energy firms E.ON and Centrica, and the food producer Nestlé.
The coalition of investors has asked the companies to review the “insidious” lobbying practices that are being adopted by their trade associations and lobbying companies, to ensure that they are consistent with the company’s own stated support for the Paris climate agreement.
The letter to the chair of each company said: “We would ask you to review the lobbying positions being adopted by the organisations of which you are a member. If these lobbying positions are inconsistent with the goals of the Paris agreement, we would encourage you to ensure they adopt positions which are in line with these goals.”
The director of ethics and engagement for the Pensions Board, Adam Matthews, said: “A lot of companies have publicly stated their support for the Paris climate agreement, but, despite that, a number of them are members of trade associations who are lobbying for a completely different approach.
“Misleading and misaligned corporate lobbying practices undermine the ability of governments to act on climate change and meet the goals of the Paris agreement. The influence of trade associations is often exerted behind closed doors, and can be deeply insidious to public policy-making on climate change.
“As the recent report from the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] clearly highlighted, the stakes are high, and time is against us. It is therefore right that investors are challenging Europe’s most high-emitting companies to ensure consistency in their lobbying practices.”
Charlotta Dawidowski Sydstrand, of the Swedish AP7 pension fund, said: “AP7 has identified that weaknesses in current climate policy globally pose a risk to the long-term value-growth of our pension portfolios. At this point in time we find it unacceptable that companies counteract ambitious climate policy, either directly or through their business organisations. Lobbying on climate issues should be evaluated, managed, and reported on transparently.”
The move comes just two weeks after the IPCC issued a special report predicting that the world is heading towards warming of 3ºC (News, 12 October).
The coalition is asking companies to respond by the end of this month, and Mr Matthews said that the group would consider follow-up shareholder action if it was unsatisfied with responses received from the 55 companies.
Earlier this year, the group filed a shareholder resolution against the mining company Rio Tinto for its funding of lobby groups that support coal.