If you’re above 35 and live a developed country, almost certainly the worst thing you did for the environment last year was having money in carbon intensive retirement, ISA and investment funds.
Every flight you didn’t take, mile you didn’t drive and meat-based meal you replaced is almost certainly wiped under the crushing weight of the carbon emissions produced by the companies you own through your retirement fund, whilst you owned them.
Someone in the UK, between the ages of 45-55, will have an average of £324,000 in non-property wealth. That’s around $450,000. The vast majority of that is in some type of investment account, particular in a pension fund.
According to Fossil Free Funds, the average fund produces 120 tonnes of CO2 per million US dollars invested – or 120g per dollar. That means, the average person between 45-55 is responsible for around 55 million grams (or 55 tonnes) of CO2 per year.
To put that in context, a flight from London to Sydney is just over 1.5 tonnes. A brand new car might result in 5 tonnes of carbon in the atmosphere. If you drove a Porsche cayman at 40 kph for a whole year, non stop, that’s 236,000 grammes per day or 86 tonnes in a whole year. Which is worse than your savings – but not that much worse.
And that’s the average. The worst polluting fund we found put out 1600 tonnes per million dollars which result in emissions of 750 tonnes in a year for your savings portfolio.
There are better funds but it’s actually a bit embarrassing because they are so much better and they don’t perform noticeably worse. The least polluting fund we could find was an ESG ETF doing .7 tonnes to the million dollars and it’s up 17% YTD – if you moved your pension pot to that then you could do all the flights to Sydney that you liked. It’s up to you.
Really, the responsibility here lies with employers who generally dictate where and when someone’s pension is invested. A colleague in the industry told me a story of going to the United Nations to give a talk on ESG investing and pointing out that the standard UN pension held a fund which held equity in a company that produced anti-personnel land mines – the United Nations land mine non-proliferation unit didn’t see the funny side.
But it’s worth taking a look at the pension choices of either your own pot or your employer’s.