BC teachers push to divest oil and gas company pension fund

The Surrey and Revelstoke teachers’ associations will present motions at the BCTF AGM this weekend, calling on the teachers’ federation to divest from fossil fuel companies.

A group of BC teachers are calling on the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) to withdraw all investment from companies that support the fossil fuel industry.

The call comes a day before the start of the BCTF’s annual general meeting, where the Surrey and Revelstoke teachers’ associations (in partnership with the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association) are due to present motions to divest from the plans teachers’ retirement from all corporate fossil fuel holdings.

The motions also call on the BCTF to exert more pressure on pension board members to set out a policy that would guide the BC Investment Management Corporation (BCI) – which invests pension money – in allocating a larger share of investments to greener businesses.

“Start with the Royal Bank. They are fossil fuel backers,” said Squamish teacher Kim Benson, highlighting the bank’s investment in the $6 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline.

“We are invested in Russian oil and gas, Indonesian oil… We have no control.”

As of 2020, the BC Teachers’ Pension Plan had over $34 million in invested assets and over 100,000 members.

Benson, who along with North Vancouver teacher Jillian Maguire began organizing the fossil fuel divestment campaign a few months ago, said the introduction of the motions is the first step in a public campaign to push the BCTF towards more climate-friendly investments.

While Benson says there are plenty of teachers who support fossil fuel divestment, a core group of about six people have begun scouring BCTF’s investment portfolios to understand just how much money is supporting. fossil fuels.

So far, she says they’ve found at least 10 companies funded by BC teachers’ pensions that are directly tied to the fossil fuel industry.

According to an inventory of BCI 2021 investments posted on the group’s account websitethe company has nearly $73 million in investments with Linde PLC, the world’s largest industrial gas company, nearly $24 million with China Petroleum & Chemical-H, nearly $84 million with the energy company Russian Lukoil PJSC and $2.3 million with Imperial Oil.

BCI has also invested nearly $8 million in public equity in Kinder Morgan.

BCI manages nearly $200 billion in assets for BC’s public sector and is one of Canada’s largest asset managers, according to the company’s website.

It’s unclear what percentage of those investments is directly held by the teachers’ pension plan, or how many other fossil fuel companies the union supports.

“We have built our fortunes for far too long on the back of our students’ future. It is horrifying to us that the BCTF still has stakes in these earth-destroying companies,” Maguire said in a pre-written statement.

She later added: “If we vote for the divestment motion, the next step is to determine where our funds are invested. Maybe we need a dedicated person at BCI to help us sort this out.

Neither BCI President nor BCTF President Teri Mooring was immediately available for comment.

According to his Climate action plan“BCI’s approach to managing the long-term risks and opportunities of climate change is informed by scientific consensus.”

Or as BCI’s senior vice president for public markets, Daniel Garant, puts it in the document: “We don’t see divestment as a practical solution for large institutional shareholders.

Public pension funds have faced increasing pressure to divest from fossil fuels in recent years. On February 10, 2022, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board committed to bringing the portfolio of Canada’s largest pension plan to net zero by 2050.

This decision came after the commitments of other large pension funds such as the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Ontario Investment Management Corporation, among others.

Although the CPP Investment Board has not ruled out “broad divestment,” it said it would increase green and transition investments to $130 billion by 2030.

“This is serious business. We can’t keep following the rules that we imposed on ourselves. The rules don’t work anymore,” Benson said. “The BCTF has managed to avoid that so far.”

“But we decided to push this time in the face of climate catastrophe.”