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Fewer managers seeing oil as a good investment — survey

Flames burn off at an oil processing facility in Saudi Aramco’s oilfield in the Rub’ Al-Khali (Empty Quarter) desert in Shaybah, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018.

Only 18% of U.K. -based money managers view oil companies focusing business on fossil fuels in the next five years as good investments, said a survey by U.K. Sustainable Investment and Finance Association and Climate Change Collaboration initiative released Monday.

The survey of 39 managers, which collectively run $10.2 trillion in assets, showed managers now pay closer attention to the financial risks stemming from investments in integrated oil companies, with 37 reporting that companies that do not respond to climate change-related risk within 10 years are unattractive investments.

But two-thirds of 31 respondents consider oil securities as attractive if energy producers align their business models with the 2015 Paris Agreement targets. And just under a quarter of all respondents didn't see oil companies as attractive when considering any time horizon.

Some 97% of managers interviewed for the survey said their clients have become more interested in carbon-reduction strategies in the past 12 months.

Almost 40% of the surveyed managers have publicly committed to achieving the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement, while 47% made no commitment and 13% made private commitments. Forty-six percent said they have no policy on aligning all of their funds with Paris Agreement, while 21% had a policy of aligning all funds and a third that had a policy of aligning some funds.

The number of money managers who had no climate-related engagement strategy has fallen to 12% from 41% last year, while 18% have set deadlines for engagement objectives.

Some 57% of managers that hold oil investments have yet to consider what action to take if engagement objectives are not reached. Over one-third said they want oil companies to reinvest capital if objectives are not met, while nearly a quarter want oil companies to return capital to shareholders.

"The writing is on the wall for oil companies that do not support global efforts to avoid a climate catastrophe by urgently phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to a low-carbon world. The investment community recognizes that these will make increasingly risky investments," Simon Howard, CEO of UKSIF, said in a news release.

"But most fund managers need to do much more to protect asset owners, and asset owners more to protect savers, by driving oil companies to change," he added. "Both should publicly commit to aligning investment portfolios with the Paris targets, and managers should make more fossil-free investment products available. They should also coordinate their engagement policies and give them real teeth by setting oil companies deadlines and spelling out the consequences if they fail to take action."

The survey was conducted between March 22 and April 13.