The way forward for USS

We have met recently with USS and were informed of their plan for interim targets for their pathway to ‘net zero by 2050’. Worryingly these interim targets – 25% reduction by 2025 and 50% by 2030 – are based on carbon intensity rather than absolute emissions. Using carbon intensity means that if the fund grows, as it has done over the last decade, intensity could go down while actual emissions stay the same. However the science from IPCC is clear that emissions themselves need to be rapidly reduced (by at least 7% per year). Furthermore we believe that the emissions need to be reduced more rapidly and that the target must be ‘absolute zero’ and not ‘net zero’ since most offset schemes are questionable.

In response to this, we have produced a draft pathway for USS to follow to take the necessary urgent steps towards decarbonisation of its investment portfolio. We welcome comments (

USSDivest’s plan for decarbonising USS’s investment portfolio in response to the Climate Emergency – Feb 2022

  1. To immediately divest public/private equity and debt/bonds from those companies that explore and exploit new fossil fuel reserves and those that develop and build new infrastructure (for example pipelines and refineries) for the transport and processing of fossil fuels.
  2. To adopt an inelastic and full cycle measure of annual carbon equivalent emissions derived from the activities the scheme owns and creates. Average carbon per member appears a sensible choice.
  3. To clearly define the protocol used to measure that metric. This must include full and transparent accounting of all growth effects including those initiated through debt and endogenous asset value growth. Likewise it must include robust handling of mixed asset portfolios.
  4. To state what the 2019 value of that metric is as the baseline
  5. To reduce that metric by 25% by 2025, 60 % by 2030, and 100 % by 2040 relative to baseline
  6. To state that any overshoot in a given year is fully redeemed in subsequent years prior to 2040 such that the total carbon budget set by the 2019 to 2040 objective detailed above is met
  7. To formally agree to exclude carbon offsets and removals from this process setting the above targets as ‘absolute’ rather than ‘net’.
  8. To report annually and transparently to all members on progress against target.

2 thoughts on “The way forward for USS

  1. Hello and thank you for your eminently sensible analysis and plan. I very much hope that USS will take this on board, so that there is a ‘life compatibility strand’ to USS’s position wrt their members and not just the fiduciary responsibility. There is not much point in a sole aim of optimising the financial aspects of the fund if it cannot be enjoyed by members because of the detrimental effects of climate change and species decline, (including eventually the human species). I wrote to the USS independently in 2021 to advise that net zero was a meaningless target, but didn’t get a reply.

    Liked by 1 person

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