Thanks for your interest in the Fossil Free campaign. We don’t have answers to every question, but here are a few that we’ve been hearing a lot.  Just contact us if you need further answers.

Divestment is simply the opposite of investment – it means getting rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical.

The aim of the divestment campaign is to weaken the political influence of the fossil fuel industry, which keeps holding back action on climate change. Every time an institution publicly breaks its ties with fossil fuel companies, we chip away at their social license to carry out their immoral business plans.

We want institutional leaders to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies, and divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years.

200 publicly-traded companies hold the vast majority of listed coal, oil and gas reserves. Those are the companies we’re asking our institutions to divest from.

Stopping new and existing fossil fuel infrastructure projects is so important. Coal plants cause asthma and dump mercury into the air and water; fracking fluid can leak into groundwater and make people sick; pipelines can leak, and so on. 350.org continues to work and stand with people on the front lines of these fights to stop projects like the Dakota Access pipeline, the giant lignite mines in Germany or the gas fields of Groningen, that destroy communities and the planet, and contribute to climate change.

But, we can’t stop global warming one pipeline, coal plant or fracking well at a time–the numbers just don’t add up. At the same time that we’re working hard to stop these destructive projects, we need to loosen the grip that coal, oil and gas companies have on our government and financial markets, so that we have a chance of living on a planet that looks something like the one we live on now. It’s time to go right to the root of the problem–the fossil fuel companies themselves–and divestment is working to stigmatise the industry as a whole, chipping away at the institutional pillars that give it its social license to keep drilling and digging.

Divestment won’t bankrupt the fossil fuel industry financially but it can bankrupt them morally.

The aim of the divestment campaign is to weaken the political influence of the fossil fuel industry, which keeps holding back action on climate change. Every time an institution publicly breaks its ties with fossil fuel companies, we chip away at their social license to carry out their immoral business plans.

According to a study by Oxford University, the fossil fuel divestment campaign is the fastest growing divestment campaign in history and the stigmatisation it creates could cause significant damage to fossil fuel companies.

Divestment campaigns have made an impact before. It played for example an important role in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.

We’re all complicit in fossil fuel consumption, and we should do all that we can to reduce our own use, but the real culprits — the ones who are rigging the system — are the fossil fuel companies. The largest 200 coal, gas and oil companies own oil, gas and coal reserves that represent a significant percentage of the entire global market(1). These companies, incidentally, are also among the largest contributors to politicians’ of all stripes across the world — they’re the ones writing laws, and getting billions in government handouts each year (2).

There are many more companies that contribute indirectly to climate change — the multinationals that build drilling equipment, lay oil pipelines, transport coal, and utilities that buy and trade electricity. But right now, we’re focused on these 200 companies. For a full list of the companies and their reserves, check out this list.

Top 5 Coal companies

  1. Severstal JSC
  2. Anglo American PLC
  3. BHP Billiton
  4. Shanxi Coking Co. Ltd.
  5. Exxaro Resources Ltd.

Top 5 Oil and Gas companies

  1. Lukoil Holdings
  2. Exxon Mobil Corp.
  3. BP PLC
  4. Gazprom OAO
  5. Chevron Corp.

(1) http://www.carbontracker.org/linkfileshare/Unburnable-Carbon-Full1.pdf
(2) http://endfossilfuelsubsidies.org/files/2012/05/fossilfuelsubsidies_report-nrdc.pdf

Fossil fuel companies are currently grossly overvalued. The vast majority of their reserves carry the risk of being unexploitable and turning into stranded assets. Financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, HSBC, Standard & Poor’s, Bloomberg and the Bank of England have warned about the financial risk of fossil fuel investments, which is referred to as the ‘carbon bubble’.

There are various reasons for this risk such as climate legislation, environmental challenges, changing resource landscapes, falling renewable energy costs, evolving social norms and consumer behaviour, litigation and changing statutory interpretations.
We already see fossil fuel companies struggling with major coal companies declaring bankruptcy and big oil companies hitting record low profits.

Public institutions investing in fossil fuels expose the money they are entrusted with to a huge financial risk. They breach their fiduciary duty by gambling on high-risk carbon assets. They have a responsibility to address systemic threats like climate change proactively and take a long-term stewardship approach to their investments, so that they support a transition to a regenerative economy rooted in social and ecological justice.

Shareholder action can be an effective tool to make small reforms at a company – such as pressuring Apple to institute better labour practices at the factories it works with in China – but it won’t achieve the fundamental changes to the business model of the fossil fuel industry needed: keeping their coal, oil and gas reserves in the ground.

Over the last decade, there has been an attempt to use shareholder action to change the behaviour of the fossil fuel industry. While there have been some limited successes — instituting sustainability practices inside the company, for instance — there haven’t been any resolutions that have been able to address the core problem with the industry: the massive amounts of carbon they insist on dumping into the atmosphere.

If we had started this campaign 30 years ago, then shareholder action would make more sense, but with the rapidly closing window for action, we need to act swiftly and boldly. Divestment will make a far greater impact than any shareholder resolution we could ever pass.

Also see: http://gofossilfree.org/uk/why-not-engage/

Kicking off a divestment campaign is easy — thousands of communities on all 6 continents have launched their own Fossil Free campaigns already. The first thing to do is sign up for updates from your national campaign at gofossilfree.org (use the map icon in the menu above to find your national website). Then, take a look at our map of campaigns and get in touch with local organisers through our easy contact tool. If there isn’t anything going on yet, you can follow our step-by-step guides to setting on up and contact your national organiser for support and advice in getting started.