Why I’m taking pension advice from Gary Lineker and Richard Curtis

Linda J. Dodson

It’s not every day you’re on a video call with the filmmaker behind Love Actually and Notting Hill to talk about a topic that football legend Gary Lineker would later tweet about to his 7.6 million followers. The subject? Pensions, duh.

Richard Curtis, who also runs Comic Relief, was joined by former Bank of England governor Mark Carney and a host of asset managers to launch Make My Money Matter – a campaign to save the world, one pension at a time.

Many people don’t think of their retirement savings as a powerful tool – in fact, most don’t think of their pensions at all. But those who make efforts to change their daily habits could have a far bigger impact by investing their pension in an environmentally friendly way.

The impact of this sustainable saver on climate change would be 37 times higher than limiting their meat intake to one meal a week, 82 times greater than taking the train instead of driving and 117 times better than cutting their travel to one international flight a year, according to sustainable fund manager Nordea.

Yet just 5pc of people have changed how their pension is invested. In Britain alone there is £3 trillion held in pensions, much of it invested in industries that are actively hurting the future of the human race, such as fossil fuels, tobacco and arms manufacturing. Checking and changing your assets is far more powerful – and easier – than remembering to recycle.  

This is not just about virtue signalling or shaming people into behaving a certain way. In his annual letter to the industry this year Larry Fink, boss of BlackRock, said it was about understanding how climate risk would affect “the global system that finances economic growth” – and making sure your investments were suitably protected.

His examples include the death of the 30-year mortgage if lenders can’t estimate climate risk that far into the future, the effects on inflation if the cost of food climbs from drought, and the economic decline if emerging markets lose productivity thanks to extreme heat.

Mr Fink points out that as capital markets are based on future risk, asset values will see climate change’s effects quicker than the planet will. As he puts it: “Climate risk is investment risk.”

Mr Carney said the campaign would “push a door that is at least ajar if not open”, calling it “the catalyst that the financial sector needs to open the door all the way”. It is already creeping through the industry.

The matter was debated in the House of Lords this week as part of the Pension Schemes Bill, which includes new rules to disclose how climate change affects a scheme’s assets and how its assets contribute to climate change.

Ultimately this is a campaign I can get behind – not just because I care about the planet but because I want my retirement savings to be invested in industries that will still be alive and lucrative decades from now. 

I did disagree with one thing, however. When asked who would play Mr Carney in the film of his life, Mr Curtis said Brad Pitt – when of course it should be Pierce Brosnan. But I liked what he said next: “Movies take a long time and I want this to happen quickly.”

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