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Unisuper dumps coal assets as sector turns its back on fossil fuels

Two ASX-listed coal miners have been cut off the books of major superannuation fund Unisuper in another sign of the sector turning its back on the fossil fuels industry.

Unisuper has confirmed it no longer holds stakes in coal miners New Hope and Whitehaven Coal but would not comment on whether the move was part of a wider climate policy to restrict exposure to fossil fuels. The fund has also dropped its holdings of investment firm Washington H. Soul Pattinson, which has been targeted by shareholder activists over its major stake in New Hope coal mine.

A Unisuper spokeswoman said 1.2 per cent of the fund’s $80 billion under management was invested in companies on the ASX300 energy index, which is largely dominated by coal, oil and gas producers.

Unisuper has dumped ASX-listed energy companies that produce thermal coal.

Unisuper has dumped ASX-listed energy companies that produce thermal coal.CREDIT:REUTERS

Whitehaven's share price reached a four-year low on Monday after being in steady decline since 2018. The company was contacted for comment.

New Hope's share price has also been falling in the past two years but the company declined to comment on whether the $3 trillion superannuation industry's move away from thermal coal had a material impact on its operations.

An analysis of Unisuper's records in February found the fund had almost $8 billion invested in 14 thermal global coal producing companies, including America's FirstEnergy and four Japanese companies.

It prompted more than 10,000 university workers to sign a petition asking for the super giant to divest from companies earmarked as "incompatible" with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, signed by prominent scientists and high profile philosopher Peter Singer.

Unisuper's chief investment officer John Pearce told the fund's consultative committee – made up of representatives from its 37 shareholder universities – last Monday it was "ahead" of industry funds First State Super and Hesta in terms of excluding thermal coal.

Hesta and First State Super recently launched new climate policies that prevent the funds from investing in companies that make between 10 and 15 per cent of revenue from the production of thermal coal, citing climate change concerns.

Read the full article published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 04 August 2020

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