Europe’s largest conversation charity the National Trust has announced its plans to divest its entire portfolio from fossil fuels in a bid to help tackle climate change.
The organisation, which looks after 780 miles of coastline, 248,000 hectares of land and over 500 historic houses, castles and parks in the UK, confirmed it will introduce new measures to ensure that any future investments it makes match its aims as a conservation charity.
The trust said it expects to withdraw most of its fossil fuel investments within the next 12 months, and the entirety of them within three years.
Hilary McGrady, director general of the National Trust, said that returns on the trust’s investments were vital to help it ‘protect and care for special places across the region’.
However, she added: ‘The impacts of climate change pose the biggest long-term threat to the land and properties we care for and tackling this is a huge challenge for the whole nation.
‘We know our members and supporters are eager to see us do everything we can to protect and nurture the natural environment for future generations.’
This marks a bold move for the charity, which previously only had requirements not to invest in companies which derived more than 10% of their turnover from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels currently make up only 4% of the charity’s £1bn portfolio.
Under the new measures, the National Trust will establish a long-term goal to continue reducing the carbon footprint of its portfolio and increase its engagement with companies invested in fossil fuels to encourage them to improve their environmental performance.
The trust also stated it will ‘actively seek out’ opportunities to support green start-up businesses.
The charity’s chief financial officer Peter Vermeulen said the trust decided to make the move due to fossil fuel companies making ‘insufficient progress’ in investing in green alternatives.
‘We would not expect this divestment to have a negative effect on financial returns and we know that our members and supporters are eager for us to play our part in tackling climate change through everything we do,’ Vermeulen added.
‘Now we will seek to invest in green start-up businesses and other suitable portfolios that deliver benefits for the environment, nature and people.’
In the past four years the National Trust has pursued a number of green initiatives, including creating its own green heat and power and exploring sustainable farming and land management methods.
The organisation currently plans to phase out all single-use plastics from its shops and substantially reduce it in its cafes by 2022.