Catholic Super calls for carbon pricing

Warning that climate change is the biggest long-term threat to superannuation, Catholic Super chief Tim Hughes has called for a price to be placed on carbon in order to mitigate some of the risk.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that superannuation industry players are recognising that climate is a risk to retirement as well as to the environment.

Catholic Super chief investment officer Tim Hughes told the paper that climate change was the "biggest long-term risk we face", but also presents great possibilities to capture opportunities.

Firms want to see a price put on carbon to mitigate some of the risks they are taking.

"Climate change is a huge risk to the superannuation industry," Mr Hughes said at a climate change forum in Sydney.

He said there were weather-related risks such as increasing cyclone or hail storms that could affect business productivity.

And as most super funds had a large proportion of their savings invested in Australian and international companies, the returns of fund members were linked directly to the long-term financial performance of those investments.

Another major risk was that the government was likely to impose limits the amount of greenhouse gases companies were allowed to emit.

Companies that exceed these limits may pay penalties that could affect their bottom line.

These types of risks also posed a threat to superannuation because they could affect a company's long-term profitability and, therefore, its share price, which, in turn, had an affect on fund members' returns.

Mr Hughes said it was important for superannuation funds to engage corporate Australia to find out their carbon risks and that businesses should be aware of their carbon risk.

"Its simple really, ... super funds want to see change," Mr Hughes said.

"We don't want to wake up one day and see that our portfolios are invalid because (the businesses in which they invest are) so far behind the rest of the world's policies.

"We want to see a price put on carbon," he concluded.

Mr Hughes comments come in the wake of a call at a Vatican climate change conference last month by Wilcannia-Forbes Bishop Chris Toohey for Catholics to end suspicions towards scientists "as a matter of principle".

The Herald says that Bishop Toohey urged the church to set up a global body akin to Australia's Catholic Earthcare, of which he is chairman, as a forum to listen to "good and responsible scientists" and make the church aware of the "best of what science has to say".

He said the Catholic Church was capable of bringing the weight of its tradition to a "troubled human family", and was not just another voice for conservation.

Bishop Toohey acknowledged internal opposition to the church's involvement on climate change. The issue was considered either too political or the province of science and "greenies" and not the work of the church, whose job was to preach and celebrate the sacraments.

Climate change a 'huge risk' to super (Sydney Morning Herald, 24/5/07)
Churches focus on earthly matters (Sydney Morning Herald, 22/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Super
Catholic Earthcare

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25 May 2007