Belfast Telegraph

Powerful coalition of investors to combat fracking

A COALITION of the world's biggest institutional investors stepped up the pressure on oil and gas companies to become greener as they kicked off a campaign to clamp down on their "fracking" activities.

An alliance of 200 institutions - which control more than $20trn (£13trn) of assets worldwide and include Scottish Widows, the BBC Pension Trust, the US pension giant CalPERS and APG of Holland - have pledged to take action to reduce the amount of methane which oil and gas companies emit when fracking for hydrocarbons.

Fracking - or hydraulic fracturing - is a controversial practice that involves blasting a mixture of sand, chemicals and water into shale rocks to release the hydrocarbons they contain.

The process releases into the atmosphere large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide and therefore a key contributor to global warming.

The alliance of institutions, which also includes the pension fund for Britain's railway workers and Aviva Management, will begin by discussing companies' approach to controlling methane emissions from fracking, discussing regulatory measures with policymakers and working to "develop a framework to enable monitoring of companies' progress on methane control".

Although no specific punishments are planned for non-compliance, a spokesman for the alliance said failure to comply with the institutional shareholder requests "will inform investors' judgement about quality of management with possible consequences for investment decisions".

Craig Mackenzie, the head of sustainability at Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, said that what really sets this campaign apart from others is its focus on a single issue, in this case the methane emitted from fracking.

"Drilling into a particular issue is much more effective. It's becoming apparent that if you have a high level of generality it's hard to know if anything is getting done," Mr Mackenzie said.