Most people want to avoid investing in projects that contribute to climate change, and would consider moving to another less-exposed provider, according to a survey commissioned by ClientEarth.
In an online poll of 2,005 people conducted by YouGov in July, just two-fifths were aware their pension funds or investments can be used to help fund fossil fuel projects like coal mines, oil wells and gas fields. Those aged between 18 and 24 were the most likely to be unaware, and when split into gender, 71% of women were unaware, while 50% of men were unaware.
Over half (55%) agreed with the statement that they ‘expect their pension or other investments to avoid fossil fuel projects that contribute to climate change', while 19% disagreed and 26% did not know.
That figure rose to 59% among 18- to 34-year-olds, while 14% disagreed and 27% were undecided. Among the 35- to 44-year-olds, 53% agreed with the statement, 18% disagreed and 29% did not know. Meanwhile, among the 55 plus age group, 55% agreed, 22% disagreed, and 23% were undecided.
Across all age groups, exactly half said they would consider moving to another provider if they discovered they were investing in companies with significant exposure to fossil fuel projects, while 23% said no and 27% were unsure.
Again, the figures looked very different when split into age groups. Almost 60% of 18- to 34-year-olds would consider moving to another provider, 49% of 35- to 44-year-olds, and just 44% of the 55-plus age group.
Meanwhile, three-fifths of all respondents were interested in a pension fund or financial institution that considers the climate change impacts of companies they invest in, which rose to 66% for the 18- to 34-year-old group. Some 18% of all respondents were not interested, and this fell to 13% among 18- to 34-year-olds.
The respondents were informed of the Bank of England's recent warning that climate change will threaten the long-term prosperity of the economic system, and then asked if they would expect their pension fund to consider financial risk for future generations of pensioners. Some 54% agreed, 16% disagreed and 30% did not know.
However, results were more mixed when savers were asked whether they would be interested in a pension fund or financial institution that only considers maximising financial returns. Across all age groups, 37% were very interested, while 38% were not interested, and the remainder were undecided. Interestingly, in the 18- to 34-year-old group, more people (40%) would be ‘very interested' in a fund that only considers maximising returns than those who would not (35%), and 25% did not know. This was the other way round for the oldest group - the over-55s - of which 35% were interested, compared to 43% who were not.
ClientEarth climate lawyer Danielle Lawson said in a statement: "Most people questioned were not aware of the link between their pension and continued investment in fossil fuel and what this could mean for their future. Financial institutions, including pension funds, should be more transparent and engage with individuals so that they can make informed choices about how their money is used - as the Department for Work and Pensions recommended pension schemes do earlier this year.
"This is particularly important for younger people with defined contribution and contract-based pension schemes who will not draw their pensions for several decades and bear the financial risk of their scheme's continued support for fossil fuels in the meantime."
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