This is why we need you to join the growing divestment movement as thousands come together on February 13-14 for Global Divestment Day to take action and demand institutions and individuals do what is necessary for climate action by divesting from fossil fuels. On Global Divestment Day we will move our public money out of fossil fuels and call on others to do the same. Together we will directly challenge the social license of the fossil fuel industry and break the climate deadlock before it’s too late. Together, we will begin to make fossil fuels history.
At the end of 2015, world leaders will gather in Paris to attempt once again to secure a global climate deal. But we know that they won’t act in accordance with the urgency of the climate crisis while the fossil fuel industry holds the balance of power.
We also know governments continue to subsidise billions of dollars to oil, gas and coal companies to explore new reserves despite strong scientific and financial advice that fossil fuels should be left buried.
The fossil fuel divestment movement is growing faster than any previous divestment campaign in history. It is sparking international action in financial centres, parliaments, churches, universities, municipalities and investment banks around the world. Most importantly, it’s shining a light upon the fossil fuel industry’s damaging plans to profit from the planet’s wreckage.
But to fight back these plans and have any chance of getting a global treaty which will address the climate crisis, this movement must continue to grow faster and stronger than ever before.
Join us to take back the power from the fossil fuel industry and deliver a mandate for bold climate leadership in Paris before it’s too late.
We’re spreading Global Divestment Day across Friday and Saturday to take into account the huge diversity of target institutions and tactics that will be needed across the 5 different continents where divestment events are happening.
Choose the day that works best for you to register your local action – depending on your tactics and when it will make the most impact on your target and in the media in your country. For example, some institutional targets like university administration buildings might be closed on a Saturday and the decision-makers you need to hand in a large petition to in your local municipality may not be at work on Saturday.
On the other hand, big public rallies and vigils are more likely to be able to draw large crowds and garner media attention on a Saturday than during the working week.
When you invest your money, you might buy stocks, bonds or other investments that generate income for you. Universities (and colleges in the US), as well as religious organizations, retirement funds, and other institutions put billions in these same kinds of investments to generate income to help run their institutions.
Divestment is the opposite of an investment–it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.
Fossil Fuel investments are a risk for investors and the planet–that’s why we’re calling on institutions to divest from these companies. There have been a handful of successful divestment campaigns in recent history, including Darfur, Tobacco and others, but the largest and most impactful one came to a head around the issue of South African Apartheid. By the mid-1980s, 155 campuses—including some of the most famous in the country—had divested from companies doing business in South Africa. 26 state governments, 22 counties, and 90 cities, including some of the nation’s biggest, took their money from multinationals that did business in the country. The South African divestment campaign helped break the back of the Apartheid government, and usher in an era of democracy and equality.
- They need immediately to stop exploring for new hydrocarbons.
- They need to stop lobbying in Washington and other world capitals to preserve their special breaks.
- Most importantly, they need to pledge to keep 80% of their current reserves underground forever.
Stopping fossil fuel infrastructure projects are 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. We can and should stand with people on the front lines of these fights to stop projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, that would 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 at the root of the problem–the fossil fuel companies themselves–and make sure they hear us in terms they might understand, like their share price.
Divestment isn’t primarily an economic strategy, but a moral and political one. Just like in the struggle for Civil Rights here in America or the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa, the more we can make climate change a deeply moral issue, the more we will push society towards action.We need to make it clear that if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, than it’s also wrong to profit from that wreckage.
At the same time, divestment builds political power by forcing our nation’s most prominent institutions and individuals (many of whom sit on university boards) to choose which side of the issue they are on. Divestment sparks a big discussion and — as we’re already seeing in this campaign — gets prominent media attention, moving the case for action forward.
There are certain economic impacts. The top 500 or so university endowments hold nearly $400 billion (1). That’s a huge number–and getting all of that money out of coal, oil and gas will make a pretty big splash. Add in the big state pension funds, and church, synagogue and mosque investments, and we’re well on our way to making ExxonMobil, Shell and Peabody sweat.
While sale of stock might not have an immediate impact on a fossil fuel company, especially one as gigantic as Exxon, what it does do is start to sow uncertainty about the viability of the fossil fuel industry’s business model.
Here’s why: in order to keep warming below 2°C, a target that the United States and nearly every other country on Earth has agreed to, the International Energy Agency calculates that the fossil fuel industry will need to not burn approximately 80% of their reserves of coal, oil, and gas. Those reserves may be below ground physically, but they’re already above ground economically and factored into the share price of every fossil fuel company. Globally, the value of those reserves is around $20 trillion, money that will have to be written off when governments finally decide to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.
By divesting from fossil fuels, universities are not only building the case for that government action, they’re starting this important discussion about the fossil fuel industry’s “stranded assets.” On the flip side of that coin, divestment also starts to build momentum for moving money into clean energy, community development, and other more sustainable investments.
Let’s say our campaign succeeds in moving just 1% of the $400 billion that is in university endowments towards sustainable alternatives. That’s roughly $4 billion worth of new investments in things like solar bonds, revolving loan funds, and advanced energy industries. More importantly, when other investors, be they individuals or pension funds, see the nation’s leading universities begin to move in this direction, they’ll also look into it.
University endowments won’t be enough to fuel a clean energy revolution — that’s why we’re still pushing for government action — but they build the case for investment in important ways. (1) Colleges recoup recession losses, USA Today, 9/10/12
Got more questions? View the full Fossil Free – Frequently Asked Questions page