B.C. pension fund heavily invested in oil: UVic study

At a time when many British Columbians are protesting the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion, their pension money is likely invested in oil, including Kinder Morgan, a University of Victoria study says.

According to the study, B.C. Investment Management Corp. has put $3 billion into the world’s top 200 fossil-fuel companies since 2016. The corporation invests pension money on behalf of about 560,000 British Columbians working in the public sector.

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BCI even boosted its investment in Kinder Morgan, the most recent private owner of the controversial Trans-Mountain pipeline, to $65.3 million in 2017 from $36.7 million in 2016. After protests and arrests in B.C. that have repeatedly delayed construction, the federal government bought the existing pipeline, expansion project and terminals from Kinder Morgan Canada. The pipeline expansion is designed to carry heavy-oil bitumen from the tar sands in Alberta to a pumping station in Vancouver for shipping overseas.

James Rowe, UVic associate professor of political ecology and one of the report’s authors, said the report also points out that BCI investments are inconsistent with holding to Paris Accord targets. The accord, signed in 2015, established 2 C as a manageable increase in average global temperatures.

Rowe said that as world governments start to get serious about managing atmospheric carbon emissions, investments in fossil fuels will become much less profitable.

“So there is an ethical and a financial risk there,” Rowe said.

The report, Canada’s Fossil-Fuelled Pensions: The Case of the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, was co-authored with researchers from the University of B.C. and is part of a six-year research and public-engagement initiative called the Corporate Mapping Project.

Gwen-Ann Chittenden, spokeswoman for BCI, said the company has been investing in Kinder Morgan since 2011. But it is a passive investment held inside funds designed to track Canadian and global markets.

Chittenden said BCI does invest in oil and gas companies, but that particular sector accounts for a significant portion of the Canadian economy. It’s about 20 per cent of the of the composite index on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

She said BCI is researching and formalizing its approach to climate change and the 2 C target established in Paris as an acceptable limit in the rise of global temperatures.

But “our mandate does not permit the selection of investments solely on values-based considerations,” Chittenden said in an email.

“Our motivation is driven by our clients’ interest in having a comprehensive understanding of their exposure to climate-change risks and opportunities,” she wrote.

Rowe said BCI, with $135.5 billion in managed assets, is the fourth-largest investment pool in Canada and has some responsibilities.

“That’s a massive consolidated pool of wealth,” he said.

“BCI claims to be a responsible investor,” Rowe said. “But we find some hypocrisy in that we don’t find any good signs they are investing with climate change in mind.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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