Super funds can drive push for green energy

COMMUNITIES are taking whatever action is necessary and saying: Enough is enough. It’s time to move our money out of fossil fuels and into the clean energy economy.

Everyday Australians are banding together to protect their land, their water and their way of life against their own government, who have sided with multinational coal and gas corporations.

Recently the Supreme Court found in favour of the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association by upholding an earlier Land and Environment Court win in a case against Rio Tinto and our state government.

Wind FarmFarmers in Narrabri, communities around the Pilliga and Bentley are all saying that there needs to be an end to the destruction of farmland, to the devastation of our natural heritage.

Unknown to many is the fact that superannuation investments are funding the very same multinational corporations.

For the majority of Australians, their super investment will become their largest asset, after their home. Considering we may spend around quarter of our life in retirement, we want to make sure there is enough money to support us when we need it.

Superannuation investment assumes the economic climate in our retirement is similar to now. Ironically, these investments are funding the very activities which will eventually lead to higher living costs.

Unabated burning of fossil fuels is radically changing the climate – and it’s not rocket science to see that more fires, more floods and rising sea levels are going to hit our hip pocket.

Conservative figures estimate unchecked climate change is going to cost the infrastructure sector $9billion per year by 2020. These costs filter down through increased rates, power and water bills, goods and services – every sector will be impacted by climate change.

With the latest IPCC report highlighting how vulnerable we are to a changing climate, we need to take the politics out of the debate and focus on risk management. Investing in high carbon assets is a risky long-term investment and we need to take action.

Global super funds are worth more than $30trillion and Australian super funds are valued at more than $1.6trillion. To put it into perspective, the US government is worth $3.5trillion.

The Climate Institute has reported that over 55per cent of Australian super funds are invested in high carbon assets, and less than 2per cent are invested in low carbon solutions.

If we shifted even a small portion of our super to low carbon solutions, we could drive billions of dollars into creating a clean green energy revolution.

This would economically dwarf the controversial Emissions Trading Scheme and create a major shift away from risky carbon investments and future stranded assets.

So who are the leaders and laggards in super fund investment? There are three Australian super funds in the top global performers: Local Government Super, the default super choice for many local government employees in our region, VicSuper and AustralianSuper.

Super fund laggards scoring poorly include First State Super, the default super choice for many state government employees in our region, Colonial First State Super and Telstra Super.

You can check the status of your current super fund through the website and send them a letter where you can select a template text tailored to your specific concerns.

A common misconception is that ethically invested funds perform worse than their naughty counterparts.

A recent study by the Australian Financial Review reported that, since entering the market 20 years ago, socially responsible investments performed on average the same as the traditional funds.

And there is also evidence that, as global carbon trading schemes come into effect and the cost of extracting and burning coal increases, those investing in high carbon projects will shed value rapidly.

Too much of our super funds are invested in high-carbon, high-risk investments rather than creating low-carbon climate solutions.

It is easier than ever to switch super funds. Just contact the fund who you want to invest with and they will do the legwork for you.

You may not think of yourself as a global investor or change maker, but investing in a super fund gives you that power.

Like the communities of Bulga Milbrodale or Narrabri or around the Pilliga and Bentley, we can take matters into our own hands.

The time to take action is now so you can be sure that your super funds are invested in a way that encourages a better world for your retirement.

 Michael Osborne is a Greens councillor on Newcastle City Council


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