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LPs & climate change risk: Numbers game

With more information at their fingertips, institutional investors are better positioned to understand and act on climate risks and opportunities in their portfolios. But private markets are still playing catchup

Nearly 12,000 members of UniSuper – the default superannuation fund for Australia’s academics and university employees – signed a petition earlier this year demanding the divestment of their retirement funds. Rather than leading the charge on climate change, UniSuper is plowing billions of dollars into “companies whose operations and plans are completely incompatible with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement,” the petition stated.

They were responding to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald branding UniSuper a hypocrite for publicly endorsing emissions reduction while holding substantial positions in fossil fuel companies. Hostplus, HESTA and Australian Super faced the same accusations.

UniSuper, which managed A$80 billion ($57 billion) for 450,000 members as of June 2019, said it had no plans to unwind its holdings. In an open letter to the petition organizer, the superannuation fund’s board expressed a preference for engaging these companies – encouraging the adoption of lower carbon solutions – to a general fossil fuel exclusion policy.

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