When you have a surname like Colman you might think it would be best to avoid appearing in an advertising campaign playing a latex-wearing, greedy fossil fuel executive who puts her own wealth above the good of the planet. The name Colman first appeared in England in the 12th century, denoting someone who made their living gathering coal or burning charcoal. But perhaps that irony was lost on actress Olivia Colman when she agreed to front a campaign by a pressure group called Make My Money Matter, which appeals to investors to write to their pension fund managers demanding that they divest from fossil fuels. The group claims that £88 billion of British pension funds are invested in fossil fuels.
Thank God for that, many pensioners will be tempted to say. Oil and gas shares have been among the few investments which have performed well over the past couple of years as the world continues to rely on fossil fuels and the Ukraine invasion has pushed up prices. Pensioners would be in a lot worse place had their fund managers done as the divestment lobby has appealed to them to do in recent years and dump oil and gas stocks in favour of renewable energy.
The Colman-fronted campaign is really a sign of desperation on the part of those demanding divestment from oil. Until 2020 they were confidently predicting that anyone invested in oil would suffer massive losses as oil and gas reserves became ‘stranded assets’. ‘The exposure of UK investors, including insurance companies, to these shifts is potentially huge,’ said the then Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, in 2015. Green MP Caroline Lucas started demanding that the MP pension fund divest from oil in 2014, claiming there was a ‘strong financial incentive’ to do so.
Oil and gas assets don’t look quite so stranded now.