Stars of stage and screen back fossil fuel divestment for pension fund

Stars of Game of Thrones, the Harry Potter films and Wolf Hall have joined calls for the Equity union pension scheme to adopt a low-carbon investment policy.

Oscar winner Mark Rylance, actresses Zoë Wanamaker and Game of Thrones’ Alexandra Dowling and a string of other celebrities are pressurising Equity to call on their pension provider Aviva to create a low-carbon fund for their combined assets worth £110m.

The campaign wants the provider to move their money away from fossil fuels, arguing they will lead to lower financial returns in the long term, as well as harming the planet.

The campaign is supported by responsible investment charity ShareAction, which wants Equity’s default pension fund to divert its investments away from fossil fuel and into clean energy.

The campaign has been set up by performers, writers and actors, including Lara Sawalha, Leila Mimmack, Jack Monaghan, Steffan Donnelly and Will Attenborough.

Campaigners argue that there are sound financial motives for backing a switch away from high carbon investments as well as ethical ones. Recent announcements on future bans on diesel and petrol cars, as well as imprvements in performance of renewable energy put long term fossil fuel investments at risk, they argue. Wannamaker, who starred in the first film in the Harry Potter series, described the campaign as a ‘no-brainer’.

The campaign references a climate change report from Mercer that argued “average annual returns from the coal sub-sector could fall by anywhere between 18% and 74% over the next 35 years, with effects more pronounced over the coming decade (eroding between 26% and 138% of average annual returns). Conversely, the renewables sub-sector could see average annual returns increase by between 6% and 54% over a 35 year time horizon (or between 4% and 97% over a 10-year period)”.

Rylance, pictured left (Photo: Steve Pyke) who starred in Wolf Hall, says: “In the end individuals will make the difference. We must individually stop supporting those who, by their actions, deny that humans and many other living beings are facing a mortal crisis of global warming.”

Mike Bartlett, writer of BBC’s Doctor Foster, says: “Climate change will affect everyone on the planet, not to mention generations to come. Since President Trump has turned his back on the Paris Agreement, it makes it even more vital that every organisation does all they can to limit climate change. So I fully support this campaign to go low-carbon.”

Homeland actor David Harewood says: “I totally support these Equity members in their campaign to divert their pension fund away from fossil fuels and into cleaner energy solutions. We must all in our own little way do what we can to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels – either by personal choice or, as these members are doing with this campaign, by using our collective strength and moving our financial investments away from high carbon industries. We cannot continue to ignore the effects of climate change on our planet; to do so would be highly ignorant and potentially catastrophic.”

Also backing the campaign are Simon McBurney OBE, comedienne Francesca Martinez, playwright Duncan Macmillan, and other stage and screen figures including Jasper Britton and Margot Leicester.

Aviva head of workplace propositions Matt McGill says: “To change the default investment fund in the Equity Pension scheme there needs to be a decision by the management of the Equity scheme and their advisers. The default in place at the moment has been created in conjunction with the Equity scheme and their adviser. We offer a wide range of flexible solutions and are happy to work with this scheme and others to meet their needs and the needs of our customers.

“If the scheme requests that Equity members want less exposure to companies that make profits from fossil fuels we can look at making changes to their default. If that isn’t the case, individuals within the scheme are able to make their own investment choices to suit their own personal views.”