Pension funds have an obligation to prevent energy projects from having “adverse human rights impacts”, traditional landowners say.
A group of Indigenous Australians has filed a human rights complaint against 20 large Australian pension funds investing in two Santos Ltd gas projects, putting pressure on the funds’ plans to invest in fossil fuels.
In a complaint filed directly with the pension funds on Wednesday, three traditional landowners said they had an “obligation to prevent the companies in which they invest in adverse human rights impacts”.
Indigenous communities claim the Barossa and Narrabri gas projects will threaten their cultures, livelihoods and potentially damage the environment, including affecting animal breeding patterns and nesting sites.
The complaint reveals that a member of one of the funds requested information under Australian corporations law, which requires the fund to provide reasons for investing in Santos and justify the gains.
Environmental, social and governance issues are increasingly affecting investors in funds and companies, including Rio Tinto’s management following the destruction of the culturally significant rock shelter in Western Australia’s Juukan Gorge for iron mines in 2020. changed.
Santos did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but has previously said it consults with all key stakeholders on all of its projects.
The five largest super funds, Commonwealth Super Corp, AustralianSuper, Australian Retirement Trust, Aware Super and AMP, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Together, the 20 funds manage more than A$1.7 trillion (US$1.13 trillion) in assets.
The move by indigenous landowners comes after the Gomeroi appealed in January to Australia’s Federal Court over the licensing of the A$3.6 billion ($2.4 billion) Narrabri gas project in New South Wales. In December, the National Native Title Tribunal allowed Santos to proceed with the project.
“We will not allow [the environment] damaged or desecrated to such an extent that it cannot be restored to its natural state,” Gomeroi traditional landowner Karra Kinchela said in a statement Wednesday.
In December, Santos’ call to resume drilling at its A$3.6 billion ($2.4 billion) Barossa gas project in northern Australia was rejected by the Federal Court after objections from Aboriginal groups.
Santos then said it would seek new approvals for its largest project under the court order.