UK pension schemes continue to prepare for net zero but ask for more from Government to remove barriers | PLSA
UK pension schemes continue to prepare for net zero but ask for more from Government to remove barriers

UK pension schemes continue to prepare for net zero but ask for more from Government to remove barriers

22 March 2023

UK pension schemes are increasingly making progress towards net zero alignment, but a majority believe there are still obstacles the Government could remove to assist their work to address climate risk.

According to a survey conducted by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA), six in 10 UK schemes have a net zero alignment in place (60%).

Most schemes said their scheme or fund has made significant progress in playing its part in the transition to a net zero society (70%), especially LGPS schemes (100%). However, one in 10 say their focus on ESG has been reduced as a result of recent economic developments, such as the cost-of-living crisis and market volatility (12%).

Schemes that did not yet have a net zero commitment in place said this was largely to do with the difficulties of comparing like-for-like data received from investee companies and wanting to ensure their commitment is robust.

“[We are] fully committed to net zero but wish to work with our managers to make sure any commitment is meaningful and not arbitrary or box ticking,” said one respondent.

“We would welcome clear guidance to promote a standard approach,” said another.

Tellingly most respondents (59%) are not confident the UK will meet its climate target (59%), and most are concerned with recent updates which suggest there is no sustainable pathway to achieving warming of less than 2 degrees (74%).

The survey results are being published in light of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which said humanity is likely to overshoot targets to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.

More than half feel the Government should be doing more to help investors go further to address climate risk (56%). Over half also believe the Government could do more to remove obstacles to assist pension funds (53%), although one in 10 (11%) disagree. Having a coherent strategy on sustainable energy security and contributing to international bodies to define and standardise ESG measurement and reporting standards were some examples of the steps respondents said Government could take.

Pension schemes are calling on the Government to progress its Green Finance Strategy, progress and finalise the UK green taxonomy, ensure climate reporting is embedded across the investment chain (at present many of the largest employers remain outside of scope) and accelerate efforts to make the City of London the world’s first net zero financial centre.

The PLSA has focussed for several years on supporting schemes in their endeavours to implement responsible investment principles and practices. The survey findings follow the release in January of the second iteration of the Carbon Emissions Template, which the PLSA has published in partnership with the Association of British Insurers and the Investment Association. The template provides a standardised set of data that pension schemes need to calculate their emissions and enable them to better understand the environmental impact of their investments.

The PLSA’s focus on climate-aware investing has helped achieve progress in removing some of the barriers.

Nigel Peaple, Director Policy & Advocacy, PLSA, said: “The IPCC’s “final warning” highlights the severity of not taking action to address the environmental crisis humanity faces. The pensions sector plays a key role in ensuring the world meets its commitment to minimise global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees and in leading the financial sector to this goal.

“Many pension funds have already made a commitment towards achieving net zero and we expect more will choose to do the same in the near future. Government has an important role to play in helping pension funds achieve their net zero targets, by actions such as adopting a clear strategy on sustainable energy security and helping set and define meaningful standards for ESG measurement and reporting. We ask Government to prioritise these actions.

“As the main representative for the UK's pension funds, we are committed to working with members to help them achieve their net zero goals, by seeking policy change where needed, encouraging collaboration across the sector, and being at the forefront of the considerations on how the finance sector can respond to the climate emergency.”


Mark Smith, Head of Media Relations
020 7601 1726 | [email protected]

Cali Sullivan, PR Manager
020 7601 1761 | [email protected]

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