Climate justice organisation 350 Aotearoa is celebrating the direction from the government for the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) to accelerate its moves to divest from investments in fossil fuels. The direction to ACC to divest was included in the Minister of Finance’s annual letter of expectation to Crown Financial Institutions. This echoes the call from 350 Aotearoa, a grassroots climate organisation that has been calling on ACC to divest from all coal, oil, and gas companies since June 2020. 

350 Aotearoa Executive Director Erica Finnie said  “Our community-led campaigning has built the social license and momentum for our government to direct ACC to divest from fossil fuels. It’s fantastic to see the government recognising that stopping investing in coal, oil, and gas companies is a vital step to align our financial sector with New Zealand’s climate commitments, and to align our public funds with the direction of public policy and public appetite.”

In December 2020, in the weeks leading up to the Minister of Finance’s letter of expectation to ACC, 350 Aotearoa coordinated a week of action with events in Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch, Invercargill, Ōtaki and Auckland to grow public support for ACC to divest from fossil fuels.

Finnie said, “Everyone in Aotearoa has a stake in ACC, by receiving care or contributing levies, so we’ve been demonstrating public support for our public funds to stop investing in high-polluting, destructive coal oil and gas companies.”

As of June 2020, ACC had $210 million invested in coal, oil, and gas companies. Over $145 million was invested in BHP Billiton, Australia’s largest mining company, recently accused of human rights abuses and environmental damage at the Cerrejon (sere-hon) coal mine in Colombia.

“New Zealanders do not want our public funds invested in high-polluting fossil fuel companies most responsible for the climate crisis that are causing severe environmental damage and human rights abuses,” said Finnie. “Our financial sector has a vital role to play in our transition to a safe climate future, by divesting from the fossil fuel industry and rejecting fossil fuels as an industry that is acceptable to support and be associated with. It’s great to see the government recognising fossil fuel divestment as an essential part of our climate change response.”

ACC’s Board is required to provide the Minister of Finance with a draft Statement of Performance Expectations by 30 April 2021, followed by a final SPE by 30 June 2021.

Finnie said, “Our work to apply public pressure to ACC isn’t over yet. The government has directed ACC to divest, and now we expect to see a public announcement from ACC in the coming months that outlines its plan to divest from fossil fuels. 350 Aotearoa will continue to play an important role in ensuring that ACC commits to divest from all coal, oil, and gas companies in a robust, transparent, timely manner.”