World's first climate change super fund initiative Media Release

Sep 25, 2008 - 12:30pm

The world’s most comprehensive initiative designed to assist super funds manage the risks and maximise the opportunities associated with climate change was launched today at Parliament House by Federal Minister for Superannuation, the Hon. Senator Nick Sherry.

Called the Australian Asset Owners Climate Change Initiative, it is the product of a unique partnership between The Climate Institute and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST).

“This initiative is designed to assist Australian superannuation and pension funds adopt best practice and to lead international competitors in managing the risks and maximising the opportunities in the response to the challenge of climate change,” Climate Institute CEO John Connor said.

The initiative consists of a survey of 80 of Australia’s largest superannuation funds, each with more than one billion dollars under management, backed by best practice guidelines both of which will be updated annually.

“The survey and best practice guidelines will assist asset owners, who collectively manage more than a trillion dollars of investor capital - equivalent to Australia’s annual GDP, to better manage the material impacts of climate change and the consequences of government policy,” Mr Connor said.

“In order to look after the long-term interests of members, funds will be encouraged to invest in and/or ensure companies have strategies in place to manage climate risks, and to take advantage of emerging clean technology and carbon permit markets.”

AIST Chair, Ian Robertson, said super funds had a fiduciary obligation to address long-term risks for their beneficiaries, and climate change would have to be the greatest long term risk of all.

“Climate change is an issue that everyone thinks someone else should do something about. As asset owners of more than one trillion dollars, super fund boards are ideally placed to do something constructive and poorly placed to avoid that responsibility,” Mr Robertson said.

AIST’s partnership with The Climate Institute on this unique initiative would build on other AIST research projects such as recent work examining the carbon footprint of superannuation funds, Mr Robertson said.

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