The ACT government's moves to divest nearly half of its interests in major fossil fuel companies in recent months have won praise from environmental groups in Canberra.
Research by campaigners 350.org and the Conservation Council ACT shows the government has divested directly owned shares in 30 companies since July, including 11 profiting from coal and 19 from oil and gas. The sales add up to nearly 45 per cent of the previous fossil fuel assets.
The government has sold its shares in the world's 5th largest owner of coal reserves, controversial multinational Anglo American – as well as miners Glencore and Whitehaven Coal. Other sales include Mitsubishi Corp, Exxon Mobil, GDF Suez and Hess Corp.
Projects co-ordinator for 350.org Josh Creaser said the ACT's remaining holdings in fossil fuel companies represented a third of the carbon reserves held before the divestment process commenced. He called on Chief Minister Andrew Barr to continue to divest and to push other state and territory leaders to do the same.
The government still invests in 39 of the world's 200 largest fossil fuel companies.
"We really welcome this progress from the government," he said.
"What we're hoping is Mr Barr will continue on that trajectory now, so by the time we get around to the Paris climate talks, he could say the government is fossil fuel free."
In August, Mr Barr told ACT Labor's annual conference the government would revise its environmental criteria for share holdings of fossil fuel companies and adjust its investments. He pledged to end investment in 60 companies if they did not meet strict environmental criteria.
"We would love to see a really ambitious plan to get this done quicker," Mr Creaser said. "And we certainly call on Mr Barr to show us more detail of how they plan to get out of more fossil fuels."
The government isn't planning a full divestment from fossil fuels in the short term, and won't push for other states or the federal government to do so.
Mr Barr said the government had a commitment to increase renewable energy sources and to reduce carbon emissions. Changes in the September quarter had lowered exposure to fossil fuel reserves, carbon emissions and intensity
"These changes are supporting the objective of mitigating investment risk, while continuing to maintain diversification across sectors and improve the sustainability of the investments over the long term," he said.
Changes to the government's responsible investment policy have seen investment in listed companies dropped where they are included in the global industry classification standard for coal and consumable fuels, where mining of coal is a key activity and where companies have a high carbon intensity in their business operations.
Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury said he was pleased the ACT government was making progress on divestment.
"Community organisations like 350.org and others have done a great job of raising the profile of this issue and getting the government to focus on it.
"I think its a smart decision for the ACT as well. Some of these will become stranded assets and they will not be valuable so this is also about protecting the ACT's investments from inevitable changes in the market," Mr Rattenbury said.
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