As climate and finance experts warn urgently against further investment in fossil fuels, the managers of Ontario teachers’ retirement pensions are pouring more dollars into natural gas infrastructure.
“The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) has a gas problem, and it keeps getting worse,” writes Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health, a Canadian non-profit that works to promote climate-healthy investment.
Shift’s diagnosis comes in the wake of the OTPP’s recent announcement that it will be “increasing its stake from 25% to 37.5% in Scotia Gas Networks Ltd. (SGN), the second-largest fossil gas distribution network in the United Kingdom.”
OTPP’s latest buy-in tops a full year of fossil-buying frenzy, following decisions to invest in the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s gas pipeline in June 2020, in a 1,700-kilometre high-pressure gas pipeline in Italy in December 2020, and in Puget Sound Energy, a Washington-based utility that “generates two-thirds of its electricity from fossil fuels,” just last month.
“As of December 31, 2020, the OTPP’s Infrastructure portfolio alone was composed of nearly C$2 billion in fossil gas pipeline assets,” writes Shift.
OTPP’s increased stake in SGN “calls into question the credibility of its recent commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050,” Shift adds, even after “hundreds of active and retired Ontario teachers” called for details on how it proposes to reach its goal.
Shift writes that the OTPP “claims without evidence” that its investment is helping the UK energy giant provide “the capital needed to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.” The company “is engaged in pilot projects to feed green hydrogen through its pipelines and invest in district energy systems, but has no credible explanation for how ‘natural gas networks will play an important role in the transition of the energy sector to a net zero future’.”
By repeatedly investing in fossil infrastructure, Shift says the OTPP “continues to gamble the retirement savings of thousands of active and retired teachers on fossil fuel infrastructure like gas pipelines and unproven moonshot technologies like hydrogen, both of which are already being outcompeted by cheaper renewables.”