(This interview was published on January 18th in Inside Philantrophy)
Most people in philanthropy don't enter the sector because they have dreams of working in a financial institution. But that's exactly what they're doing. The philanthropic sector as we know it today was deliberately designed by the robber barons of the early 19th century as a response to extreme wealth inequality they created through exploitative labor practices in the oil, steel and shipping industries. Whether to genuinely make amends for the harms they created or to engage in reputation washing, the industrialists cornered the market on philanthropy, guarding against legal challenges to its tax shelter functionality and curtailing regulatory legislation that could induce democratic decision-making. Today, the value of philanthropy stands at about $2.3 trillion, which is 3% of the global economy.
Most Dutch pension funds and their asset managers do not vote consistently in favour of climate resolutions at the oil and gas companies and banks in which they invest. That is the conclusion of a report published today by Both ENDS and Groen Pensioen. Eleven of the twelve* Dutch pension funds studied have made public statements and pledges about adapting their policies in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. But their voting behaviour does not sufficiently correspond with these pledges. Only pension fund PME votes for 100% in line with its own climate promises.
In this short video, Niels Hazekamp of Both ENDS talks about how the Netherlands stimulates projects related to the fossil sector abroad through its export credit agency (ECA) Atradius DSB. The ECA provides export credit insurance for very large-scale and high-risk activities abroad. About two thirds of this export support (worth around 1.5 billion euros per year) is going to the fossil fuel sector. Absurd, at a time when the whole world has to make the transition to sustainable energy. Our country should not support the fossil, but the renewable energy sector with such guarantees, and grab that chance of 1.5 billion!
Today, the Netherlands announced that it will join a leading group of countries, including the United States, Canada and Italy, which declared that they would stop international support for fossil energy projects. At the day of the launch of the declaration at the climate summit in Glasgow on the 4th of November, the Netherlands had no intention of joining, but because of pressure from civil society and political parties, the responsible ministries decided to sign after all. Both ENDS, together with organizations at home and abroad, has been pushing for this for years, and we are very happy with this step. We will of course continue to monitor developments.
Today, on the eve of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, the fossil fuel divest-invest movement released a new report that details how institutions representing an unprecedented total of EUR 33.7 trillion worth of assets have now committed to some form of fossil fuel divestment, a figure that's higher than the annual GDP of the United States and China combined.
Minister Liesje Schreinemacher for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation recently made her first working visit, to Kenya and Uganda. With this visit, the minister made a flying start in honouring the pledge in the new government's coalition agreement to formulate a 'targeted Dutch Africa strategy'. Such a strategy is desperately needed as, too often, our foreign trade is conducted at the expense of people and the environment, including in countries in Africa. The new strategy presents a perfect opportunity to ensure that the 'trade and aid' agendas are closely aligned.
FMO's new position statement on fossil fuel investments commits to ending new direct finance in the downstream and midstream coal and oil sectors, whilst still allowing for investments in gas-fired electricity generation under exceptional circumstances only. Both ENDS welcomes this development as a step in the right direction.