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PLSA rejects climate change law for investment decisions

The UK’s pension fund trade body has argued that new regulations governing how trustees invest £1.5trn in assets should exclude explicit reference to climate change.

20 JULY 2018 | CHRIS SEEKINGS
Climate change is not the only ESG factor to consider ©iStock
Climate change is not the only ESG factor to consider ©iStock


The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) said including climate change specifically in a new law could “confuse” trustees by unintentionally narrowing their focus.

This could cause them to disregard other environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations that may be more relevant to their portfolios, such as resource depletion or human rights.

This is despite the PLSA reiterating its belief that climate change poses a substantial risk to the business models of firms in almost every sector, threatening the stability of the financial system.

“It is important that pension schemes consider risks related to climate change as part of their investment strategies, however, this is clearly not the only ESG factor to consider,” the PLSA said.

“We believe that picking out any one factor as a specific example may lead trustees to assume that is the only, or most important, factor to consider, when others might be more relevant.”

This comes in response to a consultation by the Department for Work and Pensions into new sustainability regulations for workplace pension funds, which closed on 16 July.

The PLSA also rejected proposals that would see trustees prepare a statement outlining how they take account of scheme members’ views, saying they were “neither practical nor purposeful”. 

It argued that members should not be expected to be investment experts, and that trustees should invest in the best interest of members even if it “runs counter to strongly-held beliefs”.

Lawyers at ClientEarth, which co-produced a climate risk report with the PLSA in 2017, said rowing back on the “crucial” government proposals would be “hugely irresponsible”.

“Major financial institutions and world experts recognise climate risk as the most significant financial risk to the economy,” said ClientEarth finance lawyer, Alice Garton. 

“Human rights abuses and resource depletion are crucial ESG issues, but what the PLSA seems to have overlooked, is that a changing climate underpins and intensifies these risks.”


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