Kepco spotlight revives questions about efficacy of divestment strategies in reducing carbon emissions
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Combustion Industry News Editor
The news that a Dutch pension fund has sold most of its shares in Korea Electric Power Corp (and that the Church of England is considering doing the same) because of its lack of progress in cutting carbon dioxide emissions has reminded the Financial Times of Bill Gate’s position on the effectiveness of divestment. Speaking to the FT in September last year, Mr Gates said that divestment to date “probably has reduced about zero tonnes of emissions”. Capital is still readily available to carbon-intensive industries, and is likely to remain so, which leads Mr Gates to conclude that the time spent by activists in persuading organisations to divest from fossil fuels could be better used. Instead, Mr Gates suggests that investors wanting to ‘make change’ get more out of putting their money into pioneering technologies that could actually reduce carbon emissions, such as alternative protein or direct air capture. “When I’m taking billions of dollars and creating breakthrough energy ventures and funding only companies who, if they’re successful, reduce greenhouse gases by 0.5 per cent, then I actually do see a cause and effect type thing,” Mr Gates told the FT. Divestment campaigners counter that they do not expect divestment to starve carbon-intensive companies of capital, but rather to change social attitudes that will create the conditions in which politicians feel capable of setting policies to more effectively combat climate change. It is unclear if this type of indirect social change is working on Kepco – in January, it announced it would concentrate its foreign investments on renewable energy and less carbon-intensive projects, while also participating in coal-fired power plants under strict standards in a limited scope”. South Korea has ratified the Paris Agreement and has promised to move towards cleaner energy.