Updates

Divest CalSTRS responds to Engagement

Jane is a retired English and Spanish middle school teacher who receives a pension from the world’s largest educator-only pension fund (and the second largest US pension system), California State Teachers Retirement System (“CalSTRS”).

A few weeks ago, Jane wrote a letter to the CEO of CalSTRS, Jack Ehnes. The letter started like this, “I am very concerned that my CalSTRS pension has holdings in the fossil fuel industry for two reasons–moral and financial.” More…

Kreativa aktiviteter i Almedalen

Efter att ha samlats ett stort gäng kampanjare i Norrköping för Klimatriksdagen, var nästa anhalt Almedalsveckan i Visby! Här följer en sammanfattning av vad vi gjorde. – Jakob Sahlin

10402758_10152266276157869_5519861413359664242_n More…

Copenhagen’s investments undermine green ambitions

Image: Mstyslav Chernov

Image: Mstyslav Chernov

The investments of Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen, clash with its efforts to become a leader in sustainability, a recent article in Danish newspaper Politiken points out.

Copenhagen aims to become the world’s first CO2-neutral capital by 2025. If the city is serious about its goal, it’s high time for the European Green Capital 2014 to end its DKK 53 million investment in fossil fuels. More…

Fossil Free Europe – Country Updates

European Divestment Training, May 2014Well folks, it’s been 4 months since we highlighted 9 European divestment campaigns to look out for.  So much has happened since then that we thought it was time for an update on the status of the Fossil Free campaign across Europe.

Perhaps most important is the work that’s been going on behind the scenes to build the power and campaigning skills of the people who make up Europe’s rapidly-growing divestment movement.  In May, we brought together 30 key organisers from Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Poland, Netherlands, Germany and the UK in rural Germany for a week-long training and strategy session.  It’s these people who have made the successes below a reality.

Here’s a rundown of just a few highlights from each country: More…

How Campaigning to Divest From Fossil Fuels Started with a Field of Hungry Bees

Since starting at 350.org as the new US Digital Divestment Campaigner, I keep thinking of one summer afternoon storm two years ago in Eastern Turkey.

The sky was a sick orange as ominous dust clouds marched across the Anatolian plateaus. Old nomadic beekeepers, with their faces wrinkled from years of squinting at the horizon sighed as they ducked into their white canvass tents, muttering in Turkish “well, there goes our season.”

Within minutes, the clouds were upon us, and brown hail the size of golf balls pummeled the tent. Accompanying the ice orbs, thick dark sludge slid from the sky and landed in deafening plops.

Mud rain fell for the next few hours, covering all of the plants in thick film, wiping out all of the blossoms, and stunting an otherwise promising 2012 honey season. This June mud rain was devastating, but it wasn’t the only inclement weather we would see that summer high on the fragile grasslands of Northeastern Turkey, bordering Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. There would be blizzards in the middle of July and August too that would wipe out whatever flowers remained. More…

World Council of Churches divests from fossil fuels and encourages its members to do the same

World Council of Churches Central Committee

Image: www.oikoumene.org

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a fellowship of over 300 churches, which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, endorsed fossil fuel divestment this week.

The WCC agreed to phase out its own fossil fuel holdings and encourage its members to do the same. The WCC Central Committee is made up of dozens of influential religious leaders from around the world, meaning the decision could resonate far and wide.

350.org founder Bill McKibben said:

“The World Council of Churches reminds us that morality demands thinking as much about the future as about ourselves–and that there’s no threat to the future greater than the unchecked burning of fossil fuels.

This is a remarkable moment for the 590 million Christians in its member denominations: a huge percentage of humanity says today ‘this far and no further.’

Guillermo Kerber, who coordinates the WCC’s work on care for creation and climate justice explained:

“There was an explicit wish at the Finance Committee to include fossil fuels as one of the sectors where the WCC will not invest in, based on decisions to divest from fossil fuels taken by member churches in different parts of the world.

The general ethical guidelines for investment already included the concern for a sustainable environment, for future generations and CO2 footprint. Adding fossil fuels to the list of sectors where the WCC does not invest in serves to strengthen the governing body’s commitment on climate change as expressed in various sessions of the Central Committee.”

The endorsement is a major victory for the fossil fuel divestment movement, which has seen a surge of momentum amongst religious institutions over the last few months.

350.org’s European Divestment Coordinator Tim Ratcliffe said:

The World Council of Churches may be the most important commitment we’ve received yet. It opens the doors for churchgoers around the world to encourage their institutions to live up to their values and divest from companies that are destroying the planet and our future.”

In recent weeks, the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in the United States committed to divest,  the University of Dayton in Ohio became the first Catholic institution to join the campaign, and the Church of Sweden have come out in favour of divestment.

At the national level, the United Church of Christ in the US and the Quakers in the UK have also endorsed divestment. Regionally, Lutheran, Quaker, Presbyterian, and Episcopal denominations have also joined the effort in the US.

One of the most powerful advocates for fossil fuel divestment has been Nobel Peace-Prize winner and former South African Anglican Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, who called for an “anti-apartheid style boycott of the fossil fuel industry”.

Tutu’s call to action has been echoed by top UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, who recently urged religious leaders to pull their investments out of fossil fuel companies, as well.

The Divestment Movement Takes on the NYC $160 Billion Retirement Fund

At $160 billion, the NYC Common Retirement Fund is the third largest pension plan in the country, and it’s heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry.

This video illustrates efforts by Fossil Free NYS and local activists to redirect these investments to be more in line with the morals and beliefs of the fire-fighters, teachers, and government employees it represents.

Over 12,000 New Yorkers have already signed the petition calling on Comptroller DiNapoli to divest the NYS Common Retirement Fund. Many statewide organizations have submitted formal divestment resolutions and requests. The Comptroller’s current response is to participate in a yearlong climate risk study — while the CRF continues to invest in a climate crisis that deepens every day.

Climate change is real, it’s here, and it’s hurting New Yorkers. Join the efforts by signing the petition today.

Quakers Move Their Money to Protect the Planet

This guest post is by Paula Kline of Fossil Free Friends.

The Eco-Justice Working Group of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting announced today that more than $2 million of assets have been divested from fossil fuels and reinvested in a new Quaker Green Fund offered by Friends Fiduciary Corporation. By doing so, Philadelphia area Friends join a growing number of religious communities, colleges, towns and states across the country, which are bringing pressure to bear on government and industry to act now to slow climate change. Meetings that have already shifted funds include Central Philadelphia, Lansdowne, Westtown, Lehigh Valley, Old Haverford, and Newtown Monthly Meetings. The question of investing with integrity is actively underway at many others. These Quaker Meetings are urging Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the largest body of Friends in the United States, to divest as well. More…

Methodists fail to respond to grassroots call for fossil fuel divestment

Desmond Tutu quoteDespite unprecedented pressure from local churches, the Methodist Conference failed to commit to end its investments in fossil fuels. It announced that it will review its policy, with no decision for at least 12 months. The Methodist Church has investments in fossil fuel companies worth £58 million (2012 figures).

Mark Letcher, Vice-Chair of Christian climate change charity Operation Noah:

“Whilst I welcome the decision to review fossil fuel investments, I am disappointed that the Methodist Church has not decided to grasp the nettle and begin disinvesting from this sector, particularly coal, right away, despite strong calls from its own members.”

“Multimillion pound investments in companies determined to develop new reserves of coal, oil and gas are incompatible with policies to prevent uncontrolled global warming – facts that are recognised by a growing number of Churches in the UK and abroad.”

Just like grassroots Methodists, Operation Noah calls on the Conference to move rapidly to divest from fossil fuels. This year’s Methodist Conference received six resolutions (“memorials”) about investments in fossil fuels from local Circuits or Districts, four of which called for divestment.

Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org and a Methodist:

“I’m confident it’s only a matter of time before the Methodists are in the forefront of this campaign. But since Creation already groans under the weight of our carbon emissions, I hope this time is short indeed.”

Call on the Methodists to ditch their investments in fossil fuels!

While the Methodists fail to respond to the call for fossil fuel divestment, other religious institutions are active leaders tackling the climate crisis and protecting creation. Dozens of churches around the world, from Anglicans in New Zealand to Quakers in the United Kingdom, have divested their holdings. In the United States, the United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalists have supported divestment at the national level.

Christian leaders around the world are calling for churches to divest from fossil fuels. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has recently called for an “apartheid style boycott” of the fossil fuel industry. Top UN climate chief Christiana Figueres urged religious leaders to pull their investments out of fossil fuel companies, as well.

Operation Noah launched its campaign for church divestment Bright Now in September 2013.

The Methodists’ decision was announced at the Methodist Conference 2014 that took place in Birmingham from June 26 to July 3.

Biggest college & university investment consultant just put out a new report on divestment.

A few days ago, Cambridge Associates, which advises 71% of the largest college & university endowments, quietly published a paper about divestment entitled The Fossil Fuel Divestment Discussion.

This is their first general statement about the fossil fuel divestment movement, although several individual Cambridge Associate consultants have published their own papers claiming significant costs to divestment (Pomona College being the most notable case). In this new paper, Cambridge remains fairly bland and expertly nonpartisan. The general conclusion to their paper is that institutions (in this case mostly schools) should think about social policies and sustainable investments, but be aware that fossil fuel divestment will change the structure of their portfolios. More…

Glasgow University Working Group recommends divestment!

This blog was written by Miriam Wilson, a member of Fossil Free Glasgow University campaign in Scotland, UK.

The meeting of Glasgow University Court, our university’s decision-making body, on June 25th 2014 was a big moment for our Climate Action Society’s Fossil Free campaign. After 10 months of intensive campaigning, and an early morning banner drop, a decision on possible fossil fuel divestment was about to be made…

Glasgow University Climate Action group's banner drop

Glasgow University Climate Action group’s banner drop

Divestment was first placed on the Court’s agenda back in February. With the support of our Students’ Representative Council (SRC), we were able to bring fossil fuel divestment to the Court’s attention, and in response they formed Working Group on Socially Responsible Investment to consider our case.

At this point, our campaign team split into two groups: Action and Research. Our Research Team compiled a 180-page briefing setting out the case for divestment for the Working Group, and four members were invited to meet with the Working Group to make the case in person.

Meanwhile, our Action Team made big noise around the campaign on campus, staging numerous creative actions to draw attention to our cause. On the day of the June 25th Court meeting, that meant hanging a giant banner from the SRC building, calling on the university to make the responsible choice, and divest.

The Court meeting took place behind closed doors. Although two SRC representatives attended the meeting, we were not allowed to know what the Working Group recommendation on divestment was until after the meeting adjourned.

But the Working Group came out in full support of divestment, recommending that the university puts a freeze on new investments in the industry, winds down its existing holdings over the next 10 years, and where possible re-invests in green industries. The 10-year timeline isn’t in line with our demands or the science, but we’ll continue pushing them to bring this forward.

The professionalism of our campaign and the strength of our arguments were apparently commented on throughout the meeting. Despite this, a minority of Court members were opposed to divestment, and blocked a decision being passed until October. We still have work to do.

The Working Group will re-convene to consider concerns raised by a few Court members at the October meeting, and we have four months to persuade them further of our arguments, build up even greater momentum on campus around our campaign, and mobilise towards a divestment win in the new semester.

You can support our campaign by signing our petition

Unitarians Go Fossil Free!

UUs DivestOn Saturday, the Unitarian Universalist Association voted overwhelmingly in favor of fossil fuel divestment. Representing over 1,000 congregations, delegates to the UUA’s General Assembly passed a resolution calling for divestment of the UUA Common Endowment Fund.

The resolution was carefully crafted by a committed group of activists known as UU Divest (formally, Unitarian Universalists for Fossil Fuel Divestment and Sustainable Reinvestment) in collaboration with members of the UUA Committee on Socially Responsible Investing and the UUA Investment Committee.

Click here to read more.

UK doctors end investments in fossil fuel industry

BMA divestsThe British Medical Association (BMA), the representative body of doctors in the UK, has voted to end its investments in fossil fuel companies, making it the first national medical organisation in the world to do so. It also voted to increase investments in renewable energy.

The motion, passed at the annual meeting of the BMA in Harrogate, calls on the BMA to “transfer their investments from energy companies whose primary business relies upon fossil fuels to those providing renewable energy sources.” More…

We’re on top of a big wave

European Divestment Training, May 2014

A report from the European Summer Divestment Workshop. Ein  Bericht vom European Summer Divestment Workshop.

More…

Union Theological Seminary of NYC Divests $108m Endowment

The fossil fuel divestment spirit is sweeping faith communities around the world. Today, the trustees of the Union Theological Seminary in New York City voted unanimously to begin divesting the school’s entire $108.4 million endowment from fossil fuels, becoming the world’s first seminary to take this dramatic step in the fight against global climate change.

Union’s decision is especially significant because of the seminary’s reputation as a center for progressive social change. Union’s faculty has included great thinkers like Walter Rauschenbusch, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, James Cone, Cornel West, and others.

As 350.org founder Bill McKibben put it in our press release about the announcement, “Union is the cradle of progressive Protestantism in the US, so I expect this decision will have a major impact. Not only is Union a moral leader, it’s also a resident of Manhattan with long ties to the city’s leaders, meaning that divestment now has a foothold in the world’s financial capital. I predict this will be the first of many seminaries that heed the call to stand up for God’s creation.” More…

59 Oxford academics urge University to divest from fossil fuels

Fifty-nine Oxford academics have signed an open letter urging the University to “take action on climate change” by ridding its £3.8bn endowment of investments in fossil fuel companies.

The letter comes during a university-wide consultation on fossil fuel divestment, set to conclude on June 23. The consultation was announced following a year of sustained pressure from the student-led Fossil Free campaign, which came to a head on Saturday when over 150 students and residents marched through Oxford calling on the University and council to divest from fossil fuels. 

photographer: Hugh Warwick

photographer: Hugh Warwick

More…

Erasmus University Rotterdam responds to climate change

Blog post by Vatan Hüzeir Fossil Free campaigner at the Erasmus University Rotterdam

May 13th was a great day for the climate movement. In direct response to climate change, the Erasmus
University Rotterdam (EUR) in the Netherlands commissioned EURfossilfree campaigners to:

> Set out guidelines for a critical analysis of the university’s ties to fossil fuel companies;
> Assess how the university can best convince the Dutch pension fund ABP to rethink their investments in fossil fuels worth € 10 billion;
> Advise the Board on how to better integrate sustainability in curricula.

Within just one day up to around 180,000 people learned about this breakthrough. How did this success happen, what was achieved and what lessons can be learned?

In October last year, the EUR and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences asked me to research if and how the latest IPCC climate report was portrayed in popular media. After having read hundreds and hundreds of thoroughly misleading articles on climate change, in February ’14 I started the EURfossilfree campaign.

I was determined to make the Board understand that I didn’t want my university to be complicit in global warming and that they should do everything in their power to counteract it.

I wrote a letter to the Board, which was published in the university magazine (you can read the English version here). By the time the letter was printed, 30 of our professors, lecturers, and PhD candidates with expertise in fields related to climate change supported the initiative.

Although the following public correspondence between the Board and us was quite disheartening, it did help the initiative gain traction and the number of supporters jumped to around 50 staff. Needless to say, we were thrilled when the Board decided to invite us to discuss our proposition with them.

At the meeting they seemed to agree with us on how important it is for a major university like the EUR to give society a very clear signal how we should collectively deal with climate change.

Understanding that its consequences will become increasingly clear this century, it is really only a question whether our universities want to lead now, or follow later in addressing the problem of global warming. As you can see in the meme below my university was wise and chose to take the lead.

EURfossilfree achievements 13th May 2014

In these past few roller-coaster months I have learned a lot. Two things may be of particular interest to those thinking about starting a Fossil Free campaign at their own university.

Firstly, big problems ‘out there’ *can* be dealt with ‘down here’. Those saying otherwise have probably just never tried to change anything themselves. So don’t let them get you down.

Secondly, I learned ‘doing good’ yields a lot of support. Because of this, Fossil Free campaigns – even when started by just one individual – can quickly be adopted by a lot of other do-gooder people. Draw strength from this to carry on with your cause.

To other campaigners I would like to say that what transpired at Stanford University helped us make our point so much stronger at the board meeting.

I am sure our success at the EUR can also be used by other campaigners around the world to generate more leverage in discussions with their universities’ Executive Boards, too. It’s time to get the dominoes falling!

And to university administrators worldwide I say: If you want to make history, any day is a good day to do it!

Follow the EURfossilfree group on Facebook and Twitter

Was wir mit Druck auf die Banken bewegen können

Bei ihrem Aktionärstreffen letzte Woche hat die Deutschen Bank verkündet, dass sie den Ausbau des Kohlehafens Abbot Point in Australien nicht finanzieren wird. Der Rückzug der Deutschen Bank folgt auf eine Kampagne von Campact, dem WWF und anderen, bei der 200.000 Menschen einen Appell an den Vorstand der deutschen Bank unterschrieben haben.

Das ist ein wunderbarer Erfolg und wir freuen uns sehr darüber. Doch die Ausbaupläne der indischen Adani Group, bedrohen auch weiterhin das einzigartige Great Barrier Reef. Und der internationale Kurs auf Kohle bedroht überall auf der Welt Ökosysteme und Gemeinschaften.

Im Fall Adani und bei anderen Kohleprojekten werden Kredite in Milliardenhöhe benötigt. Der Rückzieher der Deutschen Bank gilt als Signalwirkung für andere Investoren. Auch die britische HSBC schloß sich innerhalb von nur 24 Stunden der Deutschen Bank an.

Nun heißt es den Druck weiter zu erhöhen. Denn es geht nicht nur um den Kohlehafen am Great Barrier Reef, es geht um Kohle-, Erdöl- und Gasprojekte auf der ganzen Welt. Es geht auch nicht nur um die Deutsche Bank, sondern um eine Vielzahl von Investoren, darunter weitere Banken, Unis, Städte und Kirchen.

DB

Der Grund für den geplanten Hafenausbau ist Adanis geplante Carmichael Kohlemine. Die Regierung in Queensland hat der Mine grünes Licht gegeben. Sie wäre eine der größten Kohlemienen und somit auch eine der größten CO2-Schleudern der Welt.

Doch es regt sich Widerstand. In Australien versuchen 350.org und Partnerorganisationen den Bau dieser und weiterer Kohlemienen zu verhindern. Unter anderem auch mit Druck auf die großen Banken, wie die Société Generale.

Anfang Mai hat 350.org Australien zusammen mit Market Forces einen landesweiten Divestment Day organisiert, bei dem hunderte Australier ihre Konten bei den vier größten Banken des Landes geschlossen haben, da diese in zerstörerische Kohle-, Öl- und Gasprojekte investieren.

Der Erfolg der Deutschen Bank Kampagne zeigt, was wir über die Banken bewegen können. Die Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), die deutsche Staatsbank steht weiterhin im Fokus. Die klima-allianz deutschland, urgewald e.V. und weitere Organisationen erhöhen den Druck auf die KfW, um die Kreditvergabe für Kohleprojekte zu verhindern.

Noch ist es normal in Kohle, Öl und Gas zu investieren. Doch in naher Zukunft werden fossile Investitionen der Vergangenheit angehören. Unsere Zukunft kann es sich nicht anders leisten. Deswegen macht es sich Fossil Free auf der ganzen Welt zur Aufgabe, die Macht der fossilen Industrie herauszufordern und Divestment von Banken und anderen Investoren zu fordern.

In Deutschland haben wir uns die Sparkassen vorgenommen, die über ihren zentralen Vermögensverwalter DekaBank über € 900 Millionen von deutschen Sparern und städtischen Finanzen in Shell, Rio Tinto und Co. investiert haben.

Unterstützt unseren Appell an die Sparkassen und DekaBank: Kein Geld mehr für Kohle, Öl und Gas!