The start of an unusual mobilisation of pension fund members has been kicked off by the British organisation FairPensions to hold BP and Shell to account for their investment in the dirty Canadian tar sands.
The idea is simple: individuals can contact their pension funds, through an online action, to show support of environmental resolutions that have been tabled at the annual meetings of BP and Shell this spring.
These resolutions call on the companies to justify their investment in the business and explain what they are doing to counteract the problems associated with it.
Fairpensions’ web-tool lets individuals type in the name of their pension scheme or ISA provider. This then generates an e-mail that can be sent to the relevant pension fund or investment manager, calling on them to support the AGM resolutions.
As FairPensions points out: “As a pension scheme member, it’s your right to express your concerns to them. Past campaign successes prove that contacting your pension fund can change corporate behaviour. The more people who speak out, the more likely it is that action will be taken. In less than one minute, you can petition your pension scheme to challenge Shell and BP about tar sands.”
Catherine Howarth, chief executive of Fairpensions, says “Anyone with pension savings has a right to lobby their fund manager on how to vote on these vitally important resolutions,”
The plan is supported by environmental groups as well as the Co-op and several trade unions. Dave Prentis, general secretary of the large British public sector union Unison, said: “Our members’ pension funds have an estimated investment value of £250bn, so at Unison, we understand the need for a low-carbon economy.”
It is not surprising therefore that, under criticism in the UK and increasingly in America, Canada is increasingly looking to China to exploit the tar sands.
Canadian Prime minister Stephen Harper said recently “Expect more Chinese investment in the resource and energy sectors … there will definitely be more.”
And the Chinese record in the energy sector is not pretty: they will prop up the most ruthless regimes and turn a blind eye to environmental devastation to get their hands on oil.
So American and European campaigners need to find a new way to counter the Chinese investment in tar sands.
But European banks are still involved. Later this week, PLATFORM releases a report investigating the role of RBS and other UK banks in the tar sands.