Future Fund boss’ climate change views

Crikey

The comments of Future Fund chairman David Murray on climate change last week quietly went through to the keeper, possibly because they were located in the back of Friday’s Financial Review in the quaint "Lunch With…” section.

"[Carbon dioxide] has got nothing to do with pollution… carbon dioxide is not a pollutant..., it is colourless and odourless. It is not a pollutant… It is a tiny proportion of greenhouse gases. There is no correlation between warming and carbon dioxide,” Murray is reported to have said.

Asked what should be done about climate change, he replied: "Take measures to stop the effects of it.” Asked about glaciers, Murray rejects any suggestion of glacial melt. "They’re not. The amount of ice in the world is slightly increasing. It is not decreasing. It is just staggering, staggering.”

Murray’s claim that the amount of ice is increasing appears to be based on the claim that Antarctic sea-ice has increased despite the warming of the Southern Ocean, commonly attributed to declining ozone levels over Antarctica or a change in the composition of the seas around Antarctica.

Alas for Murray, the Greenland ice sheet, both Antarctic ice sheets (land ice), Arctic sea ice and the world’s glaciers are all melting, in some cases at accelerating rates. A spokesman for the Future Fund did not respond to Crikey’s request for a source for Murray’s views on ice.

Murray’s position at the Future Fund – his term expires in March 2012 – is independent of government. But his breathtakingly ignorant views on climate change are not merely at odds with the government, but officially with that of the federal opposition which, according to Tony Abbott, currently accepts that climate change is real and human-caused, and which supports the government’s target of a 5 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. Murray’s views aren’t merely at odds with reality, they’re at odds with the views of parliament.

But this isn’t the first time climate change has been an issue for the Future Fund lately. In April, Mat Murphy at Fairfax revealed via FOI documents (or rather, via the lack of FOI documents) that the Fund’s Board of Guardians had not discussed climate change since 2007. But as a long-term investor with over $50 billion in assets under management, the Future Fund is even more exposed to the issues raised by climate change impacts, future carbon prices and the growth of renewables than most investors.

To take the most obvious example, according to last year’s annual report, 25 per cent of the Future Fund’s equity exposure is to the financial sector, almost certainly meaning it has substantial exposure to the insurance and reinsurance sectors, both of which are on the commercial front line when it comes to climate change.

As recently as January, reinsurer Munich Re, which has been raising concerns about the impact of climate change for several years, warned that the "number of weather-related natural catastrophes and record temperatures both globally and in different regions of the world provide further indications of advancing climate change”.

According to the same report, 9 per cent of the Fund’s equity exposure is in energy, making it a potentially significant player in both fossil fuel and renewable energy markets.

The Future Fund declined to engage on the issue of the role of climate change in its investment strategy, providing only the same anodyne response it provided regarding April’s revelations: "…the Board develops its investment strategy to meet its mandated objective of maximising returns with acceptable but not excessive risk. In doing so the Board considers a variety of risks ranging from, for example, market and liquidity risk through to environmental, social and governance risks. In line with this, the Board’s external investment managers are also expected to consider material risks in building their portfolios on behalf of the Board.”

The fund’s apparent recalcitrance on the issue is at odds with well-established practices by global investment funds.

"ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance investment) is not a boutique investment product, it’s mainstream, and central to the world’s largest funds,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Economic Adviser, Simon O’Connor.

"This is not a soft and fluffy area of analysis, rather, this lack of a detailed consideration of ESG puts at risk the future returns to Australians from the FF – this much has been made clear in reams of ESG analysis linking financial returns to ESG factors, like that done by the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative.”

The question is whether Murray’s climate stance isn’t merely contrary to the policies of both the government and the opposition but is having a direct impact on the long-term returns of the Future Fund.

This article has been corrected: Simon O’Connor is Economic Adviser for the Australian Conservation Foundation, not the Climate Institute and David Murray’s current term expires in March 2012 not 2011.

This story first appeared on www.crikey.com.au on June 15, 2010. Republished with permission.

More from Business Spectator

Comments

Please login or register to post comments

Comments Policy »
Those funds foolish enough to have invested in green industries, have massively underperformed those funds that haven't. I therefore congratulate the Future Fund manager on their remarkable ability to steer clear of investment lemons which are not justifiable on any objective basis (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16).
The business of the Future Fund is to generate a positive return on capital invested, not to push an ideological agenda, regardless of its deleterious effects on performance.
Whether David Murray believes in climate change is as irrelevant to the fund's performance as his views on gardening or football. He has a fiduciary duty to pick investments based on performance and performance alone. Not on personal whims, not on the promotion of flavour of the month good causes. Not on the basis of horoscopes, phases of the moon or lucky numbers. Just on clear, objective, hard number returns.
If his hard -headed approach leads him to reject the hysteria and emotional blackmail of the Climate Changers, he is to be applauded and congratulated as a man of substance and sound judgement.
I am not sure what this article is trying to achieve, other than attempting to demonise those whose opinions differ to the author (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16). I commend the Future Fund for not being caught up with 'fad' investments.
The comment that David Murray's view on climate change differ from those of Tony Abbott need not be alarming as suggested (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16). Tony Abbott, after all is a politician and head of a political body trying to win votes. His views on climate change should be judged accordingly. This is a political reality, just as the views of Malcolm Turnbull represent a combined political and financial aspiration. The science of climate change is another matter entirely. Man-made climate change has no scientific basis and care should be taken in providing solutions to non-existent problems.
Is Bernard Keane suggesting that climate change (as opposed to normal El Nino and La Nina events) will have a measurable impact on the value of insurance companies that is not already factored into their share prices? (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16.) Even if that is what he is saying, the impact of climate change (as opposed to climate change policy, which is different thing altogether) on listed companies will be small and in the distant future if there is any effect at all. Assuming a discount rate of even 6 per cent per annum, the present value impact on the Future Fund will be insignificant.
I think there seems to be much credit being given to Murray for keeping the Future Fund away from greenish investments (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16). Yes, obviously, this 'man of substance and sound judgement' has it right. Far better to invest the superannuation funds of Australians in infrastructure in other countries, overseas equities and such cute sectors as arms and nuclear weapons. Nobody asked me if I wanted to buy into cluster bomb manufacturers.
It looks like Murray is not a man of science. He should preface his comments on climate change by warning people he is not a scientist and his opinions are not steeped in any scientifically grounded, peer reviewed, and accepted, scientific analysis. Perhaps the 'future' is just plain beyond Murray.
So a citizen in Australia is now not allowed to have an opinion on climate change, well especially those who dare challenge the so-called climate gurus (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16).
I can't believe the emnity in some of the opinions expressed by contributors. I for one don't know what the purpose of this article was other than to attempt to belittle a great Australian.
Please tell me what he is purported to say is incorrect about carbon dioxide? It is a colourless odourless naturally occurring gas in the atmosphere – it has nothing to do with pollution – Co2 represents a very small proportion of the atmospheric gases – all these points are true.
Zealots are dangerous but I don't see David Murray as one.
I also admire David Murray for having the courage to say publically that he disagrees with the many hysterical claims of the 'warmists' (See 'Murray criticism unwarranted', Conversation contribution, June 16).
Bernard Keane is typical of this group of people who will stop at nothing in order to shut down proper debate.
The fact that warmists have, from the outset, chosen to deceive the public by constantly using scientifically incorrect terminology such as 'carbon' and 'pollution' when actually speaking about carbon dioxide shows that they cannot be trusted.
Great to see an educated man without the wool pulled over his eyes like the politicians (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16). How much public money is being wasted on 'climate change' when there is climate change all the time. Like the seasons of the year so there is a climate change cycle. History tells us this and those 'so called' scientists who support climate change are in it for the money. Why let facts spoil a good (money spinning) story?
I congratulate David Murray on his comments (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16).
C'mon guys don't you think it's time to ask the simple question: Why has there not been a nationally televised debate on climate change presenting all the facts to the Australian Public?
The answer, in my humble view, is that too many people will be out of a job and it is too politically sensitive.
It is a source of great amusement to many at dinner parties around this country that our media have swallowed this one like a snapper does to a fresh mulie.
In years to come it will dwarf the Y2K fraud of 1999 by a factor of many times.
I would be more interested in hearing David Murray's views on his investment strategies and what key performance indicators he measures his actions against. Why would the Head of the Future Fund want to enter the debate on climate change, which is the focus of fierce political debate? (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16.) As a private citizen he is entitled to his views but as a public figure he should be concentrating on ensuring the performance of the Future Fund and distance it from the political debate of the day.
I agree with David Murray (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16). Climate changes has been occurring since day one but I think CO2 is not the driver. As for warming, cooling is probably more likely. The answer to the problem is to build robust infrastructure that can cope with whatever happens. Installing solar collectors on homes will have no impact on the weather in 100 years.
Carbon dioxide is a plant nutrient not a pollutant. This is well established science (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16).
Historically, we are going through a periodic warm cycle which is almost exactly following the pattern of previous warm cycles. This is an historical fact – unlike some of the odd graphs produced from proxy measures which run contrary to recorded history.
Why can't someone deny the anthropogenic global warming myth which is currently part of the group think of many (but not all) scientists? There is sound scientific and historical grounds for doing so.
AGW is politically proven, but the science on which it is based is definitely shaky.
Wow, a real hotbed of deniers here in the comments section (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16). That Murray is a denier of what is overwhelming evidence is evidence enough for me not to invest my funds with him. Would you trust your hard earned with some one with such a reality dysfunction?
The claptrap about C02 not being a pollutant, please, it's year 9 science, do we have to do this again? Its opaque to infrared radiation, unlike O2 or N which make up 98 per cent of the atmosphere. Without C02 the earth would be 30 degrees cooler – an ice ball, its level is crucial to our energy balance, blah blah, I've lost you, I know, the facts are boring compared to 'opinion'. Please re-read the information on the world's response to ozone and get back to me.
Bernard: Everyone is entitled to an opinion on climate change 'science' and the two schools of thought will never meet. To be at odds with the views of parliament bears no relationship to being at odds with reality (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16).
If your commentary is merely intended to be provocative, it has succeeded. Otherwise I feel it is embarrassing to you as a seasoned and reasoned commentator.
The world has been warming slightly since the Little Ice Age which ended in the early years of the 1800s. We are now in a warmish period similar to the Medieval Warm Period and the Roman Warm Period. There have been much warmer and much cooler periods in earlier times. Nothing unusual has been happening in recent decades.
There is no serious evidence that human activity has anything but a marginal local impact. That the global temperature hasn't increased for the past 10 or 12 years is evidence that increases in CO2 from current levels are not a major driver of temperature.
That Crikey suggests that Murray is wrong because his views are at odds with parliament says it all (See Future Fund boss’ climate change views, June 16).
Marcus Finch overstates the role of CO2. It causes 20 per cent of the 33C greenhouse effect.
Maybe he understands less about AGW than he believes. Also, a doubling of CO2 causes additional 3 per cent warming or 1C. Not the feared climate catastrophe. Not without as yet unproven "positive feedbacks".
(http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/notyet/inpress_Schmidt_et_al.pdf)(http://www.drroyspencer.com/2010/09/on-the-relative-contribution-of-carbon-dioxide-to-the-earth%E2%80%99s-greenhouse-effect/)