World’s biggest investor climate coalition must live up to full potential

Just Share is one of nine global civil society organisations that have written to the CEOs of all 327 investors in Climate Action 100+ (CA100+), and to their partner organisations. In the joint letter, the organisations celebrate the initiative’s potential to drive companies to align their business models with the Paris goals. They also set out their expectations for how CA100+ members should engage with companies, governments, and civil society organisations.

CA100+ is an investor-led initiative, with more than USD32trn in assets, which aims to push the world’s 161 top carbon emitters to take stronger action on climate change.

While there are several South African entities on the list of top global carbon emitters – including Sasol and Eskom – only Investec Asset Management and Makalani Management Company (Pty) Ltd have signed up to the initiative. This is a reflection of the concerning lack of action by South African institutional investors on climate change.

The letter asks all investors to do the following:

  • Focus their efforts on limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C and require that target companies align their business models with this goal;
  • Publish a list of company targets and an annual statement detailing progress with the target companies;
  • Support climate resolutions, including those filed by civil society organisations, and publish all votes cast at the AGMs of target companies;
  • Widen the scope of the initiative to include banks, given their major impact on climate, in the target list of companies

The letter recognises the potential that CA100+ has to drive business transition on climate change. But it notes that many investors, especially those in Australia, Africa, Asia and Latin America, seem to be failing to engage meaningfully with the initiative, putting its success at risk.

A number of key wins have been celebrated by CA100+ in recent months, such as Glencore committing to cap its coal production capacity to current levels and CA100+ investors calling on BP to publish a new business strategy aligned with the Paris goals. But a lack of transparency makes it difficult to judge the impact that CA100+ is having at other companies, such as Sasol, Total and Woodside.

Civil society organisations say that by supporting the recommendations laid out in the letter, CA100+ will secure stronger public support, while protecting pension savers and investors’ clients from potential financial losses stemming from climate risks.

Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive of ShareAction, said: “CA100+ is the investor initiative on climate change many were waiting for. It has the scale and focus required to make a meaningful impact on global carbon emissions. But success depends on action and real effort by all signatory investors, and so far, not all are stepping up. Tone from the top is critical which is why we’ve written to the CEOs of signatory investors. It’s right that civil society demands accountability and determined action from CA100+ investors in every region of the world.”

Alice Garton, Head of Climate at ClientEarth, said: “Shareholders have long been blamed for unduly prioritising short term profits to the detriment of the environment. The CA100+ coalition of investors has turned this understanding on its head, ensuring that the long-term matters. Companies demonstrating robust strategic planning in the context of climate change will be rewarded and those burying their heads in the sand penalised. We look forward to CA100+ investors exercising the full extent of their shareholders’ rights against recalcitrant companies – from voting against directors and audits, to divestment. We are in the midst of a climate emergency – investors must treat it as such.”

Brynn O’Brien, Executive Director at ACCR, said: “CA100+ has the potential to be an extremely important initiative, and as it moves beyond the initial phase more effort must be made to ensure that it is functioning as strongly, consistently, and with as much accountability, as the challenge of climate change demands. Care must be taken to avoid the trap of eurocentrism and civil society organisations around the world stand ready to work collaboratively using investment tools to achieve the necessary, urgent cuts in emissions.”

Mark van Baal, Founder of Follow This, said: “Shareholders need to support oil and gas companies to truly commit to the Paris Climate Agreement, because the oil and gas sector can make or break Paris.”

Raj Thamotheram, Founder & Chair of Preventable Surprises, said: “If investors really intend to ‘drive business transition’ as the CA100+ strapline says, they will have to do things which take them well outside their comfort zone. Working collaboratively with scientists and civil society organisations who are fully alert to the climate emergency is a good example.”

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