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Fossil fuel divestment advocates stand for new accountability council at ABP

Results of election to be known this week

At least five candidates standing for election to the new Accountability Council at €300bn Dutch civil service pension fund ABP are advocates of withdrawing the giant fund’s investment from fossil fuels, according to campaigners.

The elections for the 48-member advisory body (‘Verantwoordingsorgaan’ in Dutch) closed on March 28 with 236 candidates in the running.

The body consists of 19 worker representatives, 13 pensioner representativies and 16 employer representatives. The results will be announced on April 11.

A campaign on social media to back the candidates was co-ordinated by ABP members Chris Roorda, Rick Bosman, Vatan Hüzeir and Liset Meddens.

Middens is the Coordinator of Fossil Free NL, which works with Bill McKibben’s 350.org initiative to persuade investors to divest from fossil fuels. She said: “ABP is entrusted with our money to secure our future, not to finance an industry whose business model is based on wrecking our future.“ABP needs to recognise the financial and environmental risks of fossil fuel assets and start phasing out their investments in this dirty industry.”

Roorda, a researcher at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University’s DRIFT (the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions), a research institute dealing in transitions towards sustainability, told RI: “I don’t know how much influence we will have – we can’t know this.” But he said a Facebook and Twitter campaign had a strong response. The campaigners didn’t have any direct contact with the fund.

The Verantwoordingsorgaan has a non-binding advisory role at Dutch pension fund boards. Candidates advocating fossil fuel divestment reflects the work of initiatives like the 350.org campaign in the US.

To bolster their case, the campaigners compiled a 39-page analysis ahead of the elections and identified five candidates – drawn from ABP’s ‘rank and file’ membership – seen as being most in favour of divestment/sustainability. They are: Lucas Venema, Linda Hilhorst, Jurjen Hoekstra, Annemarie van Luik and Jeroen Maat.