U.S. Markets closed

U.K. Politicians Push for Divestment of BP and Shell Shares

Kelly Gilblom

(Bloomberg) -- A group of 300 British politicians are pushing the trustees of the Parliamentary Pension Fund to sell shares of BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc to ward off the risks of climate change.

The group, organized by environmental non-profit 350.org, adds to pressure on the fossil fuel industry. Over the last two weeks, climate change activists from the group Extinction Rebellion have disrupted London by blocking roads and climbing on commercial airplanes. Just weeks before that, an estimated 7.6 million people globally took to the streets to protest continually rising emissions.

“Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is probably the single most urgent challenge we face,” the Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Rowan Williams of Oystermouth, said in a statement. “Divestment will send a positive and hopeful message to the people of this country.”

The U.K. politicians pushing for divestment said dumping shares in Shell and BP from its 700 million pound ($909 million) pension fund would reduce risk associated with the sector. A panel of bankers at the Oil & Money conference in London earlier this month drew comparisons between oil companies and the tobacco industry, which shrunk after it was socially ostracized and drawn into expensive legal battles.

The pledge was signed by politicians from the U.K.’s largest political parties and backed by 30 former MPs including London Mayor Sadiq Khan. In a statement, supporters argued divestment aligns with other actions Britain has taken to address climate change. Parliament declared the world is in a “climate emergency” in May and some lawmakers said they will come up with a new investment policy that factors in the impact of global warming.

The Parliamentary Pension Fund holds 11.6 million pounds of BP shares and 10.9 million pounds of Shell shares.

“We agree that action is needed now on climate change, so we fully support the Paris agreement and the need for society to transition to a lower-carbon future.” a Shell spokesman said in an emailed statement. “We’re committed to playing our part, by addressing our own emissions and helping customers to reduce theirs. In the U.K., we support the government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050.”

BP didn’t respond to a request for comment.

While it’s hard to link divestment directly to changes in fossil-fuel consumption, supporters of the practice believe it can urge companies to adopt cleaner practices. Shell said in its last annual report that the divestment movement could have “a material adverse effect” on its share price and could restrict its access to new capital needed to grow.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelly Gilblom in London at kgilblom@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Herron at jherron9@bloomberg.net, Helen Robertson

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.