The actors Stephen Fry and Kelly Macdonald and the former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson have joined a coalition of campaigners calling on the public to harness the untapped power of their pensions to tackle the climate crisis.
They are among the celebrities, activists and businesses joining the 21x Club, launched at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow by the Make My Money Matter campaign, set up by Richard Curtis, the screenwriter, director and Comic Relief co-founder.
The campaign’s name is inspired by research published in the summer that suggests making your pension green is 21 times more effective at cutting your carbon footprint than stopping flying, going vegetarian and switching to a green energy provider combined.
The 21x Club aims to take “the power of our pensions mainstream through a range of high-profile voices”, including the actor Peter Capaldi, the former UN climate envoy and Irish president Mary Robinson, and Christiana Figueres, a former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The group, which also includes several high-profile businesses such as Ikea, the insurer Aviva and the drinks firm Innocent, will promote a new drive to make sure all members of the public can access a green pension.
Make My Money Matter campaigns to move some of the £2.6tn invested in UK pensions alone out of industries that are harming people and the planet and into sustainable businesses.
It said pensions had a critical role to play in moving towards a zero-carbon world, but “limited public engagement, poor transparency and destructive investment practices” meant too much of this money was invested in ways that caused harm, jeopardised returns and went against the values of millions of UK savers.
Curtis said he was “delighted to help launch the 21x Club – a group of passionate, imaginative leaders and organisations each committed to using the hidden superpower of our pensions to build this better world”.
Fry said: “If you had asked me a year or so ago how a normal person could most affect climate change, I suspect that changing one’s pension would have come very low down on my list – well below committing to eat less roast beef or buying a new bicycle.
“But it does indeed turn out that we can make our money matter. It’s something of a magic bullet if we stop investing in fossil fuels or gambling, and instead invest in businesses that are going to change the world.
“The size of this is shocking: trillions and trillions of cold hard cash that could be working every day to fight climate change. The world desperately needs new big ideas, and this is one of those.”