“This commitment by the government to ensure that New Zealanders are not financing the climate crisis through our Kiwisaver funds will be welcomed by the thousands of New Zealanders that have come together to push for this change.” said Erica Finnie, campaigner for 350 Aotearoa
“The announcement that from July 2021 all default Kiwisaver funds will need to exclude investments in fossil fuels reflects the power of citizens coming together to demand climate action. Together we urged the government to hold up its commitment to take meaningful action on climate change, and the power of our collective call for change meant citizens won over corporate interests,” said Finnie.
Currently $1.15 billion of New Zealanders’ Kiwisaver money is invested in companies involved in fossil fuel extraction and production. Over $500 million is invested in the top 20 fossil fuel companies that are responsible for 30% of global emissions in modern times.
Finnie said, “The government’s commitment to ensure default Kiwisaver funds exclude investments in fossil fuels sends a clear signal that fossil fuel companies are no longer morally acceptable to be associated with. Over 57% of New Zealanders with Kiwisaver accounts remain with default funds. The government’s changes to default standards will mean that Kiwisaver fund managers will need to implement ethical investment policies that exclude fossil fuel companies to remain competitive.”
Of the current 9 default Kiwisaver providers, 5 are associated with major banks in New Zealand: ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Westpac, & Kiwibank. Finnie said “All of these banks will have to make a decision about whether to continue to benefit from the large customer base that comes with being default Kiwisaver providers, and if so, divest all Kiwisaver investments from coal, oil, & gas. This could set a precedent for these banks to review their wider investment and lending portfolios and release ethical investment policies to cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry. Banks operating in Aotearoa need to take a stand and ensure not a cent more of our money goes toward fueling the climate crisis.”
Internationally, the finance sector is increasingly responding to citizens pushing for fossil fuel divestment. Over 1184 institutions worth USD $14 trillion have now committed to policies black-listing coal, oil and gas. These include sovereign wealth funds, banks, global asset managers and insurance companies, cities, pension funds, health care organizations, universities, faith groups and foundations.
Finnie said “The New Zealand government’s decision to divest default Kiwisaver investments aligns with global standards to ensure that financial investments reflect the urgency of the climate crisis, and ensure New Zealanders’ savings are not tied up in risky investments. 350 Aotearoa hopes that the decision to divest from fossil fuels will extend to all public funds such as ACC and New Zealand Superfund.”
Since September 2019, 350 Aotearoa has been engaging its grassroots network of climate change campaigners to push for the government to ensure that changes to default Kiwisaver standards reflect the urgency of the climate crisis. Of the 280 submissions made in the government’s consultation, over 80% called for default Kiwisaver funds to exclude investments in coal, oil, & gas companies. A further 1300 signed 350 Aotearoa’s letter to Hon Kris Faafoi and Hon Grant Robertson to get default Kiwisavers out of fossil fuels.
The government’s announcement to divest default Kiwisaver funds from fossil fuels joins a range of fossil fuel divestment campaigns in Aotearoa. 350 Aotearoa has campaigned over 15 institutions to divest including religious institutions, unions, four major universities, and city councils in Auckland, Christchurch & Dunedin. 350 Aotearoa is currently campaigning major banks in New Zealand to announce ethical finance policies that exclude investment and lending to fossil fuel companies.