‘Red alert’: Billions in UK pension funds driving deforestation, says Richard Curtis | Climate News

Filmmaker Richard Curtis has warned the pensions industry should be put on ‘red alert’ as a new report says billions of UK savers’ money is driving deforestation.

In Britain, £2 out of every £10 invested in an average pension is linked to forest loss, amounting to some £300bn of UK pension funds, according to research shared exclusively with Sky News.

“It’s bad for the planet, risky for returns and goes against the values ​​of British savers,” said Mr Curtis, screenwriter of ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’, who co-founded the campaign group Make My Money Matter. (MMMM).

According to the World Resources Institute, 30 football pitches around the world are knocked down every minute. Forests regulate the climate, provide food, work, water and shelter, and absorb and store carbon dioxide, a gas that warms the climate.

“There can be no action on climate change without tackling deforestation,” Mr Curtis told Sky News.

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Forest loss exacerbates biodiversity and climate crises

“We are all connected”

According to the joint report by MMMM, Global Canopy and Systemiq, the majority of this deforestation is driven by markets that need products from forest land, such as palm oil, soybeans and beef cattle.

“So we are all linked to a global economy of deforestation, whether through food or fashion,” Global Canopy executive director Niki Mardas told Sky News.

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Deforestation in Brazil is the worst in 15 years

The report points the finger at the financial sector for financing these markets via its pension funds. Mr Mardas says the report’s use of language such as “linked to” or “at high risk of” forest loss is because it is difficult to get precise numbers from “a industry that doesn’t offer much transparency”.

He says the £300billion figure is likely an underestimate, as they only analyzed parts of the high-risk sectors and called for better reporting from pension funds.

Nigel Peaple of the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association said the methodology “is based on a number of assumptions and generalisations” which make the £300bn figure “very difficult to state reliably”.

Mr Peaple said that pension schemes were more selective in screening out companies with poor sustainability records than the analysis suggested, and that they agreed that companies with poor environmental records were not not performing well in terms of long-term investments.

Brazilian indigenous activist, environmentalist and politician Sônia Bone Guajajara Photo: Mídia NINJA
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Sônia Bone Guajajara, Brazilian indigenous activist, environmentalist and politician. Photo: Media NINJA

“A world you’ll want to retire in”

Campaigners want the pensions industry to use its “enormous power” to drive change by committing to deforestation-free investments, as well as improving transparency.

As for savers, greening their retirement is “probably the single most powerful step any of us can take to reduce our carbon footprint,” according to Mardas. He called on those with pensions to ask their providers where their money was going and to tell their employers how they wanted their savings invested.

Brazilian indigenous activist and politician Sônia Bone Guajajara said UK savers “have the power to help save forests, the power to help protect Mother Earth and protect the lives of all who live on the planet.

She urged people to ‘use your voice to change the way your pension is invested’ to create a ‘world you actually want to retire in’.

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