Mark McVeigh, 23, is taking his superannuation fund REST to the Federal Court of Australia, seeking information about what the trustees know about the impact climate change will have on its investments and what they are doing in response to that knowledge.
The Corporations Act says super fund beneficiaries can ask for any information they need to make an informed decision about the management and financial condition of the fund.
This is the first time a super fund member has taken a fund to court over lack of information about climate change risk.
Mark McVeigh, like all working Australians, must contribute money to superannuation, but he is having trouble finding out exactly what is being done to protect his money.
Mark is 23 and has been contributing to REST, the Retail Employees Superannuation Trust, since 2013. He can’t access his super until 2055.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says average global temperatures could increase by 2°C by 2050, the level deemed dangerous to life on earth, if emissions continue to rise.
For Australia that would mean more extreme weather, more frequent and intense droughts, worse bushfires and likely destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.
By 2050, natural disasters in Australia are predicted to cost $39 billion each year.
“I would like to know what REST is doing about climate change and whether my money is being managed properly,” Mark McVeigh said.
“As an individual it can be difficult to make a big impact on limiting climate change. REST is a $50 billion fund. It has a lot of power and influence and it should do the right thing.”
David Barnden, Environmental Justice Australia Principal lawyer, said:
“REST has long-term investments in property and infrastructure, as well as in public companies exposed to climate risks. Super trustees must consider climate risks and protect their members from the significant impacts of climate change.
“This is an important test case for Australia’s $2.6 trillion superannuation industry. Super funds own 25% of the total value of all companies listed on the ASX.
“These funds and the individuals that control them are critical to the economy’s fast and orderly transition under the Paris Agreement.”
The Concise Statement in McVeigh v REST is here.