Utrecht Young Academy urges: “ABP, divest from fossil industry”

Scientists For Future letter signed by members of the Young Academies

The Utrecht Young Academy has signed a letter of Scientists for Future together with all other Young Academies of Dutch universities. With this letter, academics of all research disciplines ask university boards to put pressure on the ABP pension fund. Academics want ABP to revise their investment policy in the fossil fuel industry as soon as possible and bring it in line with the Paris climate goals. The broad support of this initiative by all Young Academies of Dutch universities is remarkable.

The Young Academies unite early and mid-career academics from all research fields within a Dutch university. Peter Bijl, member of the Utrecht Young Academy, was involved with this initiative from the start and reached out to the other Young Academies. They agree that investing in fossil fuels not only puts the Paris goals further out of reach, with considerable societal risks, but concurrently also causes financial risks to the returns.


Academics affiliated with the various Young Academies feel the responsibility to inform on potential societal risks. They are at the forefront of scientific knowledge. The Paris climate goals and the national climate agreement call for an ever steeper decrease in global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels to avert extensive climate change in the future. The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) gave a warning last week that a global average temperature rise of 1.5 degrees can be reached much earlier than previously assumed. In addition, there are financial risks associated with large investments in an industry that is being phased out. Such stranded assets are an investment risk for pension funds.

Investment funds can play an important, leading role in the transition away from fossil fuels.

Investment funds can play an important, leading role in the transition away from fossil fuels, building on the knowledge of academics whose pension money they manage. “The scientific consensus is undeniable: more should be done to reduce the use of fossil energy. The science is clear on this. This becomes problematic when the pension contributions of the same academics are invested to stimulate the use of fossil fuels,” Bijl explains.

ABP is the pension fund of Dutch universities, amongst others, and says it has 17 billion euros in investments in fossil energy. This means that the pension assets of academics are used for investments that oppose scientific consensus and political agreements. “ABP has indicated that it already considerably invests in sustainable energy, but that does not relieve them of the need to divest from fossil energy at the same time,” Peter Bijl states.

According to the Young Academies, ABPs shareholder engagement policy, in which they claim that by sitting down with fossil fuel companies they can exert pressure towards the energy transition, is ineffective. ABP also regularly votes against sustainability motives in shareholders' meetings. That is why academics affiliated with the Young Academies are asking the university boards to exert pressure on ABP together. ABP must (1) divest from the fossil fuel industry and (2) install an independent committee that checks whether their investment portfolio is in line with the climate goals.