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A 25-Year-Old Took His Superannuation Fund to Court Over Climate Change, And Won

BRB suing our super funds.

climate change superannuation

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25-year-old Mark McVeigh is our new hero after he successfully sued Rest Super — one of Australia’s biggest super funds, handling $57 billion in funds — after they failed to provide details on how they plan to minimise the risk of climate change. Now, Rest is committing to net-zero emissions for its investments by 2050.

McVeigh argued that the fund breached the Superannuation Industry Act and the Corporations Act, which requires fund trustees to act in the best interest of members. By failing to manage risks associated with climate change which would negatively affect members’ retirement savings, it was alleged that Rest’s trustees were in fact fulfilling their duties.

The fund agreed and in a statement conceded that “climate change is a material, direct and current financial risk to the superannuation fund across many risk categories, including investment, market, reputational, strategic, governance and third-party risks.

“Rest will take further steps to ensure that investment managers take active steps to consider, measure and manage financial risks posed by climate change.”

Other steps Rest has agreed to take also include publicly disclosing the fund’s portfolio holdings, and monitoring and reporting their climate related progress in line with recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-related Disclosures (TCFD). The TCFD outlines three scenarios against which Rest will now test its investments: 1) the absolute carnage that will occur if the world continues on “business as usual” style, 2) an alternative universe where we transition early and in an orderly fashion to meet Paris targets and avoid a climate catastrophe, and 3) where we try to meet Paris targets but fail because we tried too late.

This was the first time an Australian super fund has been sued for not taking action on climate change, however, because the case was settled out of court, the precedent it sets does not carry as heavy of a weight. Still, the implications are big for investors, members (especially us young ones), and for the planet.

And I for one am inspired to call up my fund and find out what actions they’re taking on climate change.