UK’s National Trust Divesting Fossil Fuels

Britain’s National Trust will incinerate all of its investments in the fossil fuel industry by 2022, the organization announced. According to data from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the trust invests £45 million ($56.61 million U.S.) in fossil fuel companies, roughly 4 percent of its £1 billion stock portfolio.

Hilary McGrady, director-general of the National Trust, made the announcement in her blog. She wrote that the “impacts of climate change pose the biggest long-term threat to the places we care for. We take our responsibilities towards the environment very seriously and are committed to playing our part in helping the UK achieve net zero emissions.”

She acknowledged that investments are vital for helping the trust protect and care “for special places across the nation. They enable us to look after the natural environment and keep our membership fees affordable.”

While the trust is stopping investment in fossil fuel companies within three years, its current investment policy requires that no investment is made directly in companies which derive “more than 10 percent of their turnover from the extraction of thermal coal or oil from oil sands. Under the new policy there will be no investment in such companies.”

The new measures include: Divesting from all fossil fuel companies within the next three years; Establishing a long-term goal to continue the reduction of the carbon footprint of the investment portfolio; Increasing engagement with companies currently invested in, to continue to make material improvements in their environmental performance; and, Actively seeking opportunities to support green start-up businesses.

The change was, in part, from pressure due to reporting on the organization’s investments. McGrady wrote: “None of us liked reading the headlines a few months ago that reported the Trust was investing in fossil fuels.” She wrote the trust’s leaders “hear your feedback loud and clear, and we too believe this is 4 percent too much. So we are announcing today that we will stop investing in fossil fuel companies within three years.”

In the U.S., the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in New York City started its divesture in 2014, citing the “moral tension” arising from its work on climate change on the one hand and its investments in fossil fuels on the other. As of March 31, 2019 the fund’s exposure to coal and tar sands has been reduced to less than 0.2 percent of the total portfolio.

At the time of the RBF’s first comprehensive analysis, according to the organization, its exposure in April 2014 was 1.6 percent. The fund’s total fossil fuel exposure is estimated to be 1.2 percent. In April 2014, it was 6.6 percent, according to the organization.