National Trust shuns fossil fuel investments

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The National Trust has announced that it will sell off the shares it holds in fossil fuel companies.

At present, 4% of its £1bn stock market investment is in such firms.

The Trust, the biggest conservation charity in Europe, said it wanted to invest in green start-ups and portfolios that benefited nature and the environment.

It said it had set a three-year timescale for the change, but most shares would be sold within a year.

Until now, the Trust had been prepared to invest in firms that derived less than 10% of their turnover from the extraction of thermal coal or the production of oil from tar sands.

That same threshold was also adopted by the Church of England in 2015. A year ago, however, the Church’s General Synod voted to withdraw investment from companies that do not meet the terms of the Paris climate agreement by 2023.

And last month, the Norwegian parliament approved plans for the country’s sovereign wealth fund, which manages $1tn (£786bn) of the country’s assets, to sell coal and oil investments worth $13bn and invest in renewable energy projects instead.

“Over the years, we’ve gradually evolved our investment strategy to reduce our carbon footprint,” said the Trust’s chief financial officer, Peter Vermeulen.

“Many organisations have been working hard to persuade fossil fuel companies to invest in green alternatives. These companies have made insufficient progress and now we have decided to divest from fossil fuel companies.

“We would not expect this divestment to have a negative effect on financial returns and we know that our members and supporters are eager for us to play our part in tackling climate change through everything we do.”

The Trust said it analysed the carbon footprint of its investment portfolio every six months.

It said it also required all its investment managers to be signatories of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment.

The National Trust is responsible for the upkeep of 248,000 hectares of land, 780 miles of coastline and more than 500 historic buildings and parks across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It has 5.2 million members and more than 60,000 volunteers.

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