Britons back legal action on fossil fuel funds

UK citizens support tougher consequences on funds which invest in carbon intense industries

The majority of Britons would support legal action against funds which invest in fossil fuels – as new research reveals most UK citizens had no clue their investments are used to fund ‘unethical’ projects.

A major survey by global non-profit organisation ClientEarth found Britons are increasingly willing to put the planet before profit in their personal savings, and expect more action from pension funds and banks.

According to the survey, which comprised feedback from over 2,000 UK adults, three in five people (59%) believe financial institutions and banks should no longer invest in fossil fuels, while 60% stated these firms should be held legally accountable if they continue to do so.

Nearly half (47%) of the respondents would support rules requiring all companies on the London Stock Exchange to have business plans that are compatible with the Paris Agreement, or face delisting.

Furthermore, 45% of UK citizens would back taking the government to court if it appeared the UK is breaking its Paris Agreement pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.

This firm stance follows the revelation that nearly two-thirds of respondents (62%) were unaware that banks, pension funds and other financial institutions use ordinary customers’ investments to help fund fossil fuel projects.

Consequently, an overwhelming 70% of those surveyed are pushing for pension funds and financial firms to be more transparent about the companies they invest in.

In addition, 55% of Britons said they expect their own pensions and investments to avoid fossil fuels, while 52% stated they would consider moving to another provider if their current fund was significantly exposed to coal, oil and gas.

The findings follow research earlier this month that showed the world’s largest asset managers, BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street, are now the largest investors in fossil fuel companies.

The research, complied by thinktank InfluenceMap, found the three fund managers have a combined $300bn fossil fuel investment portfolio, which uses money from people’s private savings and pension contributions.

The ClientEarth poll also suggests climate change is likely to play a major role in determining the next UK government, with the majority of all adults (54%) and 74% of under-25s saying it will influence the way they vote at the next general election.

Over half (58%) of the UK public believe the UK government has done too little to prepare for the impacts of climate change. As a result, the respondents are urging the government to bring forward the 2050 deadline for reducing UK emissions to net zero, and introduce a Green New Deal with long-term investment in green jobs and infrastructure.

“The way the financial world responds to the climate crisis will be make or break for the health of our planet,” ClientEarth finance lawyer Joanne Etherton said.

“People have clearly shown their appetite for action to tackle climate change and it’s now over to financial institutions to respond, and align their business decisions with the Paris climate goals.”