Canada’s climate leadership claim undermined by coal bid by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board

(Ottawa) – More than 20 Canadian and international organizations are concerned that the actions of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board are undermining Canada’s leadership for a global phase-out of coal-fired electricity.  In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, the groups have called on Mr. Trudeau to intervene to stop the CPPIB bid for Rio Tinto coal assets in Australia. The groups want the CPPIB to respect Canadian climate change policy in a manner consistent with their adoption of Canadian policy on landmines and human rights.

“Why is the CPPIB ignoring government policy and undermining Canada’s diplomatic efforts to lead a global phase-out of coal?” asked John Bennett, Senior Policy Advisor, Friends of the Earth Canada.

The groups’ letter to the PM was prompted by reports that CPP is bidding to buy the coal assets of the global mining company, Rio Tinto. The news came to light on the same day Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced an alliance with the UK government to lead the push for a coal phase-out at the climate to talks in Bonn next month.

On October 12, the New York Times revealed the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is bidding on the coal assets of Rio Tinto. The deal is expected to cost the CPPIB $2 billion. This isn’t an isolated case – the CPPIB has invested billions in more than 30 coal companies including Duke Energy, which has been fined millions for pollution.

“Canada needs clean hands if it is going to convince other countries to phase-out coal but, Canada won’t have clean hands if the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board continues buying coal mines,” said Mr. Bennett.

The CPPIB is a professional investment management organization that invests the funds not needed by the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) to pay current benefits on behalf of 19 million contributors and beneficiaries; they control a $320 billion fund with approximately $5 billion annually to invest after benefits are paid out.

“The CPPIB is managing public funds collected from Canadian workers and employers,” said Mr. Bennett. “Its actions reflect on the government of Canada,” said Mr. Bennett.

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Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A2
Fax: 613-941-6900

Re: Canada’s leadership in global coal phase-out

Prime Minister,

We would like to congratulate you and Minister McKenna on leading the global push to phase-out coal fired power plants. We all support this important initiative.

Yet, on the very day Minister McKenna was in London announcing the global alliance, Reuters reported the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is bidding on the coal assets of Rio Tinto. The deal is expected to net Rio Tinto $2 billion.

Leading a global alliance requires Canada to demonstrate real commitment. Can Canada be taken seriously if taxpayer dollars are funding new investments in coal?

The Rio Tinto deal isn’t unique: The CPP Investment Board has holdings in at least 35 other coal companies including Duke Energy, which was recently fined over $100 million for polluting rivers in the United States with coal ash. These assets undermine the financial security of the lowest income/most vulnerable Canadians who depend the greatest on the CPP.

The decisions of the CPP Investment Board are a de facto extension of Canadian foreign policy. This has been true since 1999, when the Board was freed to invest in global markets. The Board recognizes its duty to uphold official policy in other areas, including human rights and landmines.  Why not climate change?

We urge you to call on the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to shut the door on Rio Tinto and divest from coal across its portfolio. Not doing so undermines Canada’s climate diplomacy and credibility on the world stage.


Lisa Anne Hamilton
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
Washington, DC.

Clara Vondrich
DivestInvest Philanthropy
New York, NY

Cindy Coltman
Both Ends
The Netherlands

Brett Fleishman
United States

James Thornton
CEO, ClientEarth
United Kingdom

Ingrid Stolpestad
The Future in our hands

Dylan Tanner
Executive Director
Influence Map
United Kingdom

David Le Page
Fossil Free South Africa

Lars Nautrup Jensen

Daniel Gocher
Market Forces

Cam Walker
Friends of the Earth Australia

Heffa Schuecking

Beatrice Olivastri
Friends of the Earth Canada

Keith Stewart
Greenpeace Canada

Audrey Dépault
The Climate Reality Project Canada

Daniel Horen Greenford
Rapid Decarbonization Group

Rose Dyson
Just Earth

Cathy Orlando
Citizen Climate Lobby Canada

David J. Parker
Vegans & Vegetarians of Alberta

Patrick Warwick
Climate Action Now

Angela Bischoff
Ontario Clean Air Alliance

Transition Initiative Kenor

Teika Newton
Transition Initiative
Kenora, ON

Dale Marshall
Environmental Defence

Catherine Abreu
Climate Action Network Canada

Réseau action climat Canada (CAN-Rac Canada)

Rita Bijons
Co-Chair, Green 13

Toronto, Canada


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