Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan to aim for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

TORONTO — The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board is getting serious about climate change with a new commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring their portfolio is more environmentally friendly.

Canada's largest single-profession pension plan said Friday that in the coming weeks it will establish concrete targets for portfolio emissions and ensure companies it invests in report emissions annually.

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It will also direct proceeds from a green bond offering towards climate-friendly investment opportunities and advocate for clear climate policies with the help of global organizations it will partner with.

"With co-ordinated action net zero by 2050 is an ambitious but achievable goal," said the plan's president and chief executive Jo Taylor. "We are committed to playing our part alongside other organizations and governments around the world to effect significant, positive change."

The promises come weeks after an environmental coalition — Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health, Fridays for Future Toronto and a group of working and retired Ontario teachers — launched a campaign encouraging the board to divest from companies that develop or transport fossil fuel products.

The coalition used a four-minute YouTube video featuring a group of students reading a letter to their teachers, asking them to push the pension plan to stop investing their retirement savings in oil, gas, coal and pipeline companies.

Chief Investment Officer Ziad Hindo said in an email that direct private assets in oil and gas make up about three per cent of the plan's portfolio and that it will continue to shift away from fossil fuels.

The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan oversees the pensions of more than 329,000 active and retired teachers in the province and handles about $204.7 billion in net assets.

In recent months pension funds and other institutional investors have faced growing pressure to divest from fossil fuels and allocate funds into low or zero-carbon energy products.

Norges Bank Investment Management, which manages Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, announced earlier this year that it plans to halt investments in Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc., Suncor Energy Inc. and Imperial Oil Ltd. after concluding they produce unacceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021.

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