I call on the board of the University of Amsterdam to stop the ABP from investing the pension money of its employees in coal, oil and gas.

others signed already!

Why?

This campaign was initiated by a group of concerned employees working at the University of Amsterdam. Our pension fund, the Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds (ABP), has invested at least €17.4 billion of our pensions in the fossil fuel industry. With the climate crisis escalating, we think the ABP is responsible for putting the future of our planet at further risk and demand our pension fund to divest from fossil fuels immediately.  

Why divest from fossil fuels? 

Pollution by the fossil fuel industry is extreme. Polluted air from exhaust fumes and coal-fired power stations harm our health. Moreover, fossil fuel emissions are at the heart of the climate crisis. In the worldwide Paris Agreement of 2015, it was agreed to do our utmost to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To meet this objective, oil, coal and gas companies must reduce their planned production and stop investing in new coal-fired power stations and unexplored oil and gas fields. 

What is the role of ABP? 

Our pension fund, the ABP, says that it endorses the Paris Agreement. Yet on our behalf the fund has invested at least € 17.4 billion in the fossil fuel industry. The latest figures even show that their direct investments in fossil fuels are now higher than they were in 2015. Although the pension fund has announced that it wants to phase out its investments in tar sands oil and coal mines by 2025, it recently invested in pollution-producing coal companies. ABP also continues to invest in major polluters such as BP, Exxon and Shell. 

Financial risks 

In addition to putting our health and the future of a livable planet at risk, ABP also takes major financial risks by sticking to an increasingly outdated industry. The yields of the fossil fuel industry have been declining for years. With the onset of corona crisis, the value of ABP’s fossil investments plummeted by 44% since the end of 2019, while non-fossil investments fell ‘only’ 26% in value. 

Our demands  

With an invested capital of more than 420 billion euros, ABP can play an important role in the transition to a more just and environment-friendly economy. As petitioners and pension holders we ask our Executive Board to speak out against ABP’s investments in fossil fuels through a public statement and press release, which will be shared by using the university’s newsletters and social media. In addition, we call upon the Board to encourage the umbrella organizations Vereniging van Universiteiten (VSNU) and Zelfstandige Publieke Werkgevers (ZPW) to join our efforts. We also demand that the CvB contact ABP directly to make our demands known.  

An initiative launched by Mathijs, Tim, Nathan, Bruno, Peter, Marloes, George and Lucille. 


Example letter to ABP

FAQ

  • What’s wrong with the fossil fuel industry?

    The pace of climate change, resulting in all kinds of health and environmental risks, is increasing at an unprecedented rate. The fossil fuel industry is the main culprit. In the worldwide Paris Agreement of 2015, it was agreed to do our utmost to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The ABP endorses the Paris Agreement. To achieve its objectives, oil, coal and gas companies must phase out their planned production as quickly as possible and certainly not invest in new coal-fired power stations and new oil and gas fields. It is therefore crucial that the financial flow that sustains the fossil industry stops. The ABP can play a major role here.  

  • Divesting from the fossil fuel industry: is that possible?

    Investments in the fossil sector not only cause major risks for our health and the future of our planet. From a financial point of view, it is also risky to continue investing in the fossil sector. After the onset of the corona crisis, ABP’s fossil investments have lost more value than its other investments, but this is not something new. Since 2012, fossil energy companies have performed worse on the stock market than other companies, and this difference will only increase as demand for sustainable energy increases. The yields of fossil fuels also fluctuate much more than those of other sectors. Major investors such as Black Rock have recently announced that they are cutting back on fossil fuel investments, and many other pension funds are already divesting. You do not want financial uncertainty while building up your pension.  

  • Agreed, but is my pension safe if ABP goes fossil-free?

    Yes! Profits from fossil fuels have been declining for years now and the expectation is further decline. It even appears that returns on investments would be even higher if ABP withdrew from the fossil fuel industry all together.  

  • Can I also participate if I am not a member of the ABP?

    Yes! Everyone can commit to a fossil-free pension. People who are not pension holders at ABP obviously suffer from its investment decisions as well. The petition distinguishes between pension holders and non-pension holders.  

  • Why do we demand 100% fossil-free? Gas is very important for the energy transition, isn’t it?

    Gas is often referred to as a necessary ‘transition fuel’ towards a more sustainable world. Climate scientists indicate that we still have a decade to avoid approaching a tipping point in the climate system, after which the climate will warm up irreversibly and increasingly faster. One of the greatest challenges humanity is facing today is how to stay below this tipping point. To achieve this, we need to move to net negative CO2 emissions as quickly as possible, meaning more CO2 is removed from the atmosphere than it enters. A few decades ago, we still had the luxury of opting for ‘transition fuels’ such as gas, but this solution is too little to late now. To avoid a tipping point, all major industries will have to switch to fossil-free alternatives as soon as possible. 

  • What influence do we have as pension holders? After all, we have no other choice than ABP.

    ABP is obliged to listen to its pension holders. After all, they are investing our pensions. If pension holders do not agree with current investment policies, ABP is required to take action and respond to their wishes and demands. The Dutch Central Bank has the task of calling the pension funds to account if they fail to do so. If the ABP neglects our concerns, the Dutch Central Bank can also play a role on our behalf. 

  • If the ABP no longer invests in fossil fuels another company will, as long as there is demand and fossil fuels are legal products.

    That is correct. But pension funds are amongst the wealthiest investors in the world. If they stop investing in fossil fuels, this will send a strong signal to other investors. Investing in this industry should become ‘not done’, comparable to investing in the tobacco or weapons industry. The fossil fuel industry needs major investments to build new coal-fired power stations or drill for shale gas. Loans become more expensive when there are fewer lenders. It will then become increasingly attractive to switch to more sustainable energy sources. 

  • My pension? Why should I think about it now?

    Pension funds manage your investments and must handle them carefully in order for you to enjoy your pension at an old age. Each working week, three hours of your paid salary go directly to your pension fund. Your employer doubles this amount. When such sums of money are put into an industry that is destroying our future, you are not guaranteed a happy old age.  

  • The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) is willing to talk with ABP about investments in fossil industries, why is this petition still necessary?

    A widely shared and signed petition emphasizes the broad support within the academic community. Both a petition and statement from the university will send a strong message to ABP, as well as to umbrella organization VSNU. Utrecht University and Wageningen University & Research have done so in the recent past, and have instigated VSNU’s first intentions to talk with ABP. We want to increase the pressure! 

  • What if I have my pension somewhere else?

    You can still sign this petition to demonstrate your commitment. You can also contact your own pension fund via https://gofossilfree.org/nl/pensioenen and www.eerlijkpensioenwijzer.nl

  • What are you going to do with this petition and my data?

    After gathering a sufficient number of signatures, we will hand the petition over to our Executive Board. We only use your data to keep you informed.

  • Further Reading

  • Examples of foreign pension funds announcing their divestment