After mass-divestment of oil and gas, AP Pension plans to ramp up wind and solar allocations
Danish pension giant AP Pension is coming down hard on fossil fuel firms, removing dozens of oil and gas companies from its investment portfolio. Responsible investment head Anna Maria Fibla Moeller explains the pension's new energy strategy
Danish pension giant AP Pension has stepped up its net zero stance in 2023. While advocating a green investment policy, the company has, so far this year, divested its interests in more than 73 fossil fuel companies, including Shell and Total.
Established in 1919, AP Pension’s customer portfolio comprises some of Denmark’s large and even medium-sized companies. In September 2012, due to competition, regulation, and capital requirements, AP Pension and FSP Pension merged, increasing its assets under management to just over $28 billion this year.
In an interview with Net Zero Investor, Anna Maria Fibla Moeller, since May 2022 the pension fund's head of responsible investments, explains AP Pension's approach to oil and gas investments and why the retirement scheme will not shy away from dropping more investee companies.
More than 73 fossil fuel firms were recently added to your exclusion list, thereby divesting hundreds of millions in Danish kroner. That is a clear statement.
Yes, we have adopted a new fossil strategy, including coal, supply, tar sands, oil, and gas tightening our approach to fossil fuel companies substantially. A key element of AP Pension's climate strategy. Our climate strategy rests on three pillars: an increased goal for green investments, a CO2 reduction target, and a strengthened active ownership approach.
The tightening of our strategy means, among other things, that AP Pension has added 73 fossil companies to our exclusion list, divesting for more than 310 million Danish kroner as a result of the new stricter exclusion criteria. All this combined means that we have basically divested from all oil majors, except a single company, which we have on our ‘watchlist’.
Indeed, Italian energy giant eni is still in your portfolio.
Yes, we are monitoring eni closely, we increase our efforts in active ownership, and they are subject to heightened scrutiny. We revisit their status annually.
So why have you not sold eni, but you did divest all the others?
The cornerstone of our approach to fossil fuel companies and our strict exclusion criteria is that we are divesting from oil and gas companies that invest in new oil and gas fields and do not have ambitious business plans to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement. And we believe that this is the case with companies like Shell and TotalEnergies, which we have divested from. We relocate capital to more sustainable activities, for instance by divesting from carbon-intensive industries, and redirecting capital flows towards companies which are compatible with the Paris Agreement.
Instead of exiting those firms, could you not have ramped up your engagement efforts?
It is a dilemma for AP Pension on how best to handle companies that are in a path to transition to a low carbon economy. On one hand, these companies can still have a significant negative impact on the climate. On the other hand, we are willing to invest in companies that have credible plans to transition their business in line with the Paris Agreement. Again, Eni is the only oil major we are invested in and have chosen to place on our ‘watchlist’.
Yes you mentioned that you are monitoring them closely, how do you go about this, how active are you?
We believe it is important to have clear expectations regarding what we expect companies to work on, otherwise, we consider excluding them. Having a clear timeline and a well described set of expectations, and transparency regarding this process is also key. It is also important to be clear and transparent on how you prioritize your engagement efforts, especially when you have diversified portfolios as we have.
And, again, in practice, how do you translate those words into action?
If the dialogue proves ineffective, we are quick to move toward exclusion in our case. We cannot have an ambition for our investments to be climate-neutral if we are not willing to set expectations for the companies, we invest in. But we engage with companies as active shareholders, both via dialogues with the companies, but also by voting and supporting climate related resolutions. By actively communicating on our voting intentions and decisions, we can also influence and push companies towards a more sustainable pathway.
We also influence our investment managers, by having a robust ESG due diligence process, focusing on assessing managers’ capabilities to integrate climate-related risks on their investment decisions, asking the right questions, and by integrating our expectations and ESG demands to the legal agreements with our managers.
You have set yourself some firm goals, what is your transition strategy for reaching these targets?
Yes, this year, we set a goal to have at least 25 percent of AP Pension's total assets allocated to green investments by 2030. By the end of 2022, green bonds made up 16.5 percent of our total assets. We have a clear strategy in place for how these green investments should be allocated across different asset classes and can gladly say that things are moving in right direction and according to plan. We intend to make more investments in solar panels, offshore and onshore wind turbines, sustainably certified properties, and green bonds that finance projects contributing positively to the climate and the environment.
You recently reviewed and adjusted your approach to investment risks.
Yes, we recently launched a policy on the integration of sustainability risks as per the new EU Disclosure regulation. We believe it is essential to understand how physical and transitional climate risks can affect the value of our investments. We will have a much more structured approach on identifying these risks during our due diligence phase. We will also focus on understanding how climate risks, for instance damage from extreme weather events and regulatory changes, can potentially affect the value of our investments.
How do you execute this in practice?
In this regard we are already seeing how portfolio stress-testing to assess resilience to extreme climate events and policy changes is playing a growing role on Own Risk and Solvency Assessment (ORSA) reporting frameworks. This helps us assessing and managing the climate-related risks to the financial stability and solvency. Finally, I want to stress reporting is important. The increasing requirements in terms of reporting and transparency, mainly driven by the EU green deal package will also encourage market participants to follow the suit, and to redirect capital flows to more sustainable activities.