HESTA’s new climate policy applies this exclusion to all thermal coal companies, including retrospective investments, and a spokesman confirmed the fund had divested from Coal India as well as its holding in Whitehaven Coal, a company running four coal mines in NSW and Queensland.
“We have a view that thermal coal is in structural decline and we are concerned about stranded assets,” Ms Blakey said. “This idea that coal can continue to provide base load energy in the long-term is really inconsistent with what’s needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
However, Ms Blakey stopped short of committing to divesting from the fossil fuel industry altogether, saying there was a long time between now and 2050 and the fund would continue its policy of engagement with these companies to encourage the adoption of more sustainable practices.
“If we are an investor, we have a responsibility to have a seat at the table and really influence the transition to the low-carbon economy,” she said.
Kate Lardner, a doctor at the Frankston Hospital and organiser of the protest group Healthy Futures, welcomed the emissions reductions targets but said HESTA’s exclusions policy did not go far enough.
“They can’t still be net zero emissions if they’re investing in oil and gas,” Ms Lardner said. “HESTA has not explained how the engagement process has achieved any outcomes.” “They’ve kept up this mantra of saying we want to remain invested to influence change but it’s very vague, non-specific dialogue.”
Ms Blakey said the fund was looking to improve communication with members about the outcomes of engagement with the oil and gas companies. “We want to be very responsible in terms of reporting clearly, that’s something we are working on.”
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Charlotte is a reporter for The Age.