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Three questions for Environmental Defense Fund about its investments and fossil fuels

In May 2013, Naomi Klein asked, “Why aren’t environmental groups divesting from fossil fuels?” Klein discovered that several of the big US-based NGOs invest in fossil fuels.

In a post on REDD-Monitor based on Klein’s article in The Nation, I pointed out that several of the NGOs that invest in fossil fuels also promote REDD as a carbon trading mechanism. I added that this is not a coincidence, but the logical conclusion of the sloppy thinking behind carbon trading. The post featured a list of these NGOs and I included Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in this list.

A few days later, I received an email from Jennifer Andreassen, Senior Communications Manager for the International Climate Programme at EDF. Andreasson wrote that,

Klein’s list of environmental groups’ investments – which you reproduced in your May 3rd story – explicitly says EDF has “No direct investments in fossil fuel companies.”
Could you please update your stories to reflect the fact that EDF does not invest money in the fossil fuel industry?

I updated the post on REDD-Monitor. But there were two things that still bothered me.

First, EDF does not make public its holdings in the stock market. Klein asked EDF to reveal its holdings in the stock market, but EDF declined to do so. (Nonprofits are not required to reveal their holdings under US law.) Klein comments, “for this reason, we are unable to independently verify that any group is fully divested.”

Second, Klein wrote that EDF has “No direct investments in fossil fuel companies” (emphasis added). And she quoted Tony Kreindler, an EDF spokesperson as saying, ”EDF does not own any equities or corporate bonds of fossil fuel companies.” But does EDF indirectly invest in fossil fuels? Does EDF invest, for example, in any funds that in turn invest in fossil fuels?

So I wrote to Andreasson and asked her why EDF doesn’t make its holdings public and how EDF screens its investments in order to exclude fossil fuels.

Andreasson replied, explaining that,

Environmental Defense Fund discloses its audited financials online. Our investment policies are guided by New York State law and by board directive, both of which require EDF to be “prudent” with its investments. For details, please see Page 13, Note A, d (ii) and d (iii) of our audited fiscal year 2012 financial statement.

To save you looking it up, here is Page 13, Note A, (d):

Which is all very interesting, but I’m pretty sure it does not answer my questions. So I wrote again. This time with three questions:

  1. Does EDF invest indirectly in fossil fuels? Does EDF invest, for example, in any funds that in turn may invest in fossil fuels?
  2. How does EDF screen its investments to exclude fossil fuels? A requirement to be “prudent” would not necessarily exclude fossil fuels.
  3. Why does EDF not reveal its holdings in the stock market? Releasing this information would be transparent and would avoid further confusion on this matter – especially if it included the holdings of any funds in which EDF invests.

I sent these questions on 9 May 2013. When I didn’t receive a reply, I sent them again on 20 May 2013. Five days later, I received an email from Andreasson, which states, in full: “Thanks, Chris, we have no further comment.”

Which, obviously, also fails to answer my questions. If EDF is genuine about not investing in fossil fuels, why not answer three simple questions about the organisation’s investments? REDD-Monitor looks forward to EDF’s answers to the three questions. But I’m not holding my breath.

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