A group of 135 scientists, politicians, religious leaders and activists have asked the Swiss National Bank (SNB) to stop investing in fossil fuel companies listed on the US stock exchange.
On Thursday, the lobby group led by the Swiss Climate Alliance - an alliance of 70 “green” non-profits - sent out an open letterexternal link to the SNB asking it to publish the carbon footprint associated with its investment portfolio and stop investing in oil and gas exploration and extraction. According to a report published last year by the group “Artisans de la transition”, fossil fuel companies reportedly make up 10.8% of the SNB’s investment portfolio. The Swiss Climate Alliance has estimated that the carbon emissions associated with such investments would be equal to that of the whole of Switzerland.
“On one hand the federal government finances climate research and on the other ignores the science. It is a bit like Donald Trump,” Christian Lüthi, director of the Swiss Climate Alliance, told swissinfo.ch.
The letter also accused the SNB of acting against the country’s interests and its own environmental guidelines. The guidelines mention that SNB “avoids shares in companies which produce internationally banned weapons, seriously violate fundamental human rights or systematically cause severe environmental damage”. However, the bank refers to these guidelines as “investment policy principles” and states that “they do not directly constitute any rights and obligations of the SNB”.
“Switzerland claims to be a global financial hub but it is much behind other countries like Singapore and China when it comes to sustainable finance,” says Lüthi.
Last year, Ireland passed a bill calling for putting an end to coal and oil investments in its strategic investment fund. In 2015, Norway’s sovereign wealth was required by parliament to divest its investments in companies that generate more than 30% of their revenue or output from fossil fuels.
A spokesperson for the SNB bank told swissinfo.ch by email that the bank has “no immediate reaction to the letter”. The letter is timed to coincide with the SNB’s general meeting of shareholders on April 28. According to Lüthi, a group of activist shareholders have also raised the issue of fossil fuel investments and it is expected to come up for discussion at the meeting.