Updates

FOR A JUST AND HUMANE WORLD: Seattle University Continues to Work for Divestment

Guest post from Ashlan Runyan, First Year, Seattle University

This past Monday, Sustainable Student Action (SSA) – the student environmental group at Seattle University working on divestment – held a rally with over 125 students and community members in attendance.

That sentence continues to blow me away as a speaker at the rally, a member of SSA and a student at Seattle University. The rally was held in response to the official no to divestment received six weeks ago by our administration. We are by no means taking no for an answer and we needed a way to tell them that in a big way, one that would also bring the larger community together so that in one voice we could remind them that we are committed to divest.  This Monday, we certainly succeeded in doing that.

SeattleU_Rally

The no that Seattle University has received from our administration is wildly contradictory to the mission of our school, especially one so connected to the Catholic Church. We are supposed to be an institution rooted in social justice and the creation of a “just and humane world” and, simply put, rejecting divestment rejects this sort of world. Saying no to divestment and no to the political and moral statement that this action would make is, in many ways, saying no to the world we want to see, the world we need to see. My university has taught me to work tirelessly for a world that is truly sustainable and just, meaning a world that includes economic justice, racial justice, and climate justice. The intersectionality of divestment is something that is essentially written into the mission statement of our university. The support at the rally from our community reminded me in a very tangible way that the people working directly on divestment are not the only people who realize this. We all see it. We all know that divestment must happen. We all know that this conversation is far from over and that there is an incredible amount of work to be done.

I know that divestment is possible, it has to be. I know that the world needs to change and that we cannot wait. The urgency of it all is energizing and motivating, but in light of a “no”, it can also be incredibly daunting.  Even then, we cannot allow the no’s that our administrations have given us, instead we must maintain a posture of hope and dedication. As Bill Moyer, co-founder of Backbone Campaign and speaker at the rally, said, “We are co-creators of this universe and we need to be co-authors of this world and that’s what we’re doing as a divestment campaign, we are authoring the future.”  This action was essential in re-grounding our movement in collaboration, solidarity, energy and hope for a world that we know needs to exist.

Activists call on investors to ditch shares in Europe’s biggest CO2 emitter

RWE AGMAt the AGM of German energy giant RWE today, Fossil Free activists called on investors to ditch their shares in the company. The activists argued that the high risk that much of RWE’s assets will become stranded, and the company’s business model that is wrecking the climate make investments unacceptable, especially for local governments.

Fossil Free activists unfurled banners that read, “Leading the way means accepting responsibility! Divest from fossil fuels” referring to a marketing message of the corporation. They also addressed the audience with speeches and confronted the board of directors with questions. The AGM was accompanied by load protests from various civil society groups outside the venue.

RWE AGMRWE has seen major losses over recent years. Chairman Peter Terium admitted that this is RWE’s own fault since the company has bet on its fossil fuel portfolio for too long. RWE is the single biggest emitter of CO2 among energy giants in Europe. Almost 80% of RWE’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels, mostly coal.

RWE’s dramatic losses have hit local governments that invested in the company hard. They had to depreciate their assets by millions. It’s time for cities to divest from RWE and other fossil fuel corporations. Their public money should be invested in local, community-led renewable energy projects that will create local jobs and benefits
.

A Fresh Boost of Energy for Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns on US Campuses

Written by Daniel Adel and cross posted from Earth Island Journal

At the 2014 Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence, students renewed their pledge to dig deep, link up, and take action

Last Thursday, anti-apartheid icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu came out with an article calling for an “apartheid-style boycott to save the planet.” Tutu says we can halt climate change if we use the tactics that worked in South Africa against the worst carbon emitters: fossil fuel companies. This was followed by news on Saturday that Pitzer College in Southern California had come up with a breakthrough climate action plan that included divesting its holdings from fossil fuels by the end of the year.

hand-written notes about an ideal world to aspire for

Another world is possible!

It was colleges and universities that spearheaded divestment during the apartheid era. Today, in the face of catastrophic climate change, the tactic is once again being championed by colleges and universities. Over the past two years, students on hundreds of campuses have launched campaigns demanding that our endowments no longer be invested in the fossil fuel industry. The movement has garnered success at numerous institutions and has fostered collective planning and action between campuses.

Earlier this month, from April 4 to 6, more than 200 students from across the United States and Canada gathered at San Francisco State University (SFSU) for the 2014 Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence. It was a time for to us to dig deep, link up, and take action. These three threads were the core threads weaving through the fabric of our convergence. This gathering was second annual student-led Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence. The first took place at Swarthmore College early last year.

Coordinated by the Fossil Fuel Divestment Network — which was formed just over a year ago as a platform for building solidarity across campuses — and the California Student Sustainability Coalition (an Earth Island Institute project), the event was organized to cultivate youth organizing capacity and leadership on climate justice. The convergence featured diverse speakers and panels on social justice and environmental and new economy communities that helped guide us as climate organizers and showed us how to challenge prevailing assumptions about the fossil fuel divestment movement. Organized around “collective liberation” and economic transformation, the convergence was testament to a new kind of momentum in the climate movement, and to the radicalizing pull of the call to divest.

Day one began with cheerful and excited young faces gathered before a stage during the welcoming ceremony. Students and recent alumni, each representing their own campaigns and strategies to address the growing climate crisis, introduced themselves to share their wisdom with one another.

Activist Tim DeChristoper speaking at event

The future of young people has been put at risk for the sake of short-term profits, said Tim DeChristopher, one of the key motivational speakers at the event.

The evening plenary featured an array of motivational speakers, closing with a speech by Tim DeChristopher, founder ofPeaceful Uprising. Saying that the future of young people had been put at risk for the sake of short-term profits, DeChristopher had some harsh words for the baby boomer generation, whom he called “complacent” and too vested in “compromise” over the well being of the planet and future generations. “The job of students in the climate movement is to be the uncompromising moral of truth,” he said. DeChristopher challenged the crowd to share their anger and to confront those standing in the way of climate justice. “This anger is really a manifestation of love,” he said. “Anger that something isn’t right and that we want to fix [it]”

Day two hosted hosted workshops and panels pertaining to environmental justice and solidarity organizing.

Henia Balalia, an organizer and former director of Peaceful Uprising, led a workshop rooting the climate crisis on overlapping systems of oppression. She stressed that environmental degradation was being exacerbated by existing economic, racial, and social injustices — an interconnectedness that should define our understanding of the climate crisis and our response to it. We must build movements across issues and beyond divisions based on race, class, and gender and elevate voices that have been historically marginalized. Doing so, she says, will lead to a profound “decolonization of minds and institutions.”

Bay Area activists Barnali Ghosh and Anirvan Chatterjee led a similar workshop. They stressed that the effects of climate change are global, yet profoundly unequal. Countries like Bangladesh and Maldives risk going underwater despite having contributed very little to the crisis. Ghosh and Chatterjee spent a year traveling around the world aviation-free in an effort to report on and learn more about the impacts of climate change across the world and possible solutions. Ghosh connected their and other environmentalists’ fight to curb aviation pollution to students’ divestment campaigns. Divestment challenges the “monolith” that is the fossil fuel industry, she said.

A second set of workshops featured speakers and panelists on issues pertaining to organizing strength.

students at a conference workshop

More than 200 students from across the United States and Canada gathered at the three-day convergence.

Gopal Dayaneni of the justice and ecology group,Movement Generation led a workshop called “Weaving the Fabric of the Next Economy” where he challenged the framing of the divestment movement. Rather than to look to the atmosphere as the source of our troubles, we should look down at ourselves — our human labor and military-industrial complex — to understand the climate crisis, he said. “Our job is to realign our economic well being with the principles of Mother Earth,” he said. As we oppose and expose the forces that are driving climate change, our job is to make a “just transition” away from an economy based on extraction and towards ecological restoration. Dayaneni urged us to invest in an economy that is “decentralized, democratized, and diversified,” one in which consumption is reduced and wealth is redistributed.

Later in the day, Christine Cordero of the Center of Story-based Strategy led all-convergence training on narrative power analysis. Dubbed “Winning the ‘Battle of the Story’ for Climate Justice,” the training could be summed up by one line: “It’s not about what we don’t know; it’s about what we already know.”

“Humans are narrative animals,” said Cordero, who addressed the power of the stories in shaping our understanding of the world around us. People have a tendency to take what’s meaningful over hard truth. Indeed, when it comes to the climate, the reports we read or see often shroud the negative impacts to frontline communities and the threat to future generations. Cordero says understanding how to win the “battle of the story” for public opinion is critical to all our efforts as organizers, advocates and communicators to make positive change.

Day three was themed around the next steps for the divestment movement. Students divided up into affinity groups to network and strategize, with the goal of laying foundations for long-lasting networked relationships between campaigns and organizers. As the day came to a close, many left with a shared feeling of optimism.

Prianka Ball, a Bryn Mawr College student who’s originally from Bangladesh, says her experiences back home mobilized her around climate issues and led her into the fossil fuel divestment movement. Ball has previously worked with the Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative, a group that promotes awareness of local and global environmental issues, especially climate change adaptation, among Bangladeshi high school and university students. She said attending the convergence made her feel “more hopeful because there are other people working on the same issues as me.”

As a second-generation American whose family is from Bangladesh, I was especially moved upon learning of youth-led climate activism happening there. The efforts of Bangladeshis aren’t often heard of in the United States, even though it will be hit the hardest by the crisis.

Organizing around the looming climate crisis can be overwhelming. It can amount to days of slow, often, thankless work. Often, it feels lonesome — as though you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. But the convergence reminded us that we are not alone in this fight. It was inspiring to see so many peers organizing around similar issues across the continent and the world.

Daniel Adel, Contributor, Earth Island JournalDaniel Adel photo
Daniel Adel, a former Earth Island Journal intern, is studying Environmental Studies, with concentration in Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice, at San Francisco State University.

IPCC: Divest from fossil fuels for a safe climate

“It does not cost the world to save the planet” — Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III 

The Working Group III contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report released yesterday provides a comprehensive assessment of all relevant options for mitigating climate change through limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as activities that remove them from the atmosphere. The previous two reports outlined the underlying science and the impacts of climate change.

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change at the lowest cost, the report envisages an energy revolution ending centuries of dominance by fossil fuels.

The IPCC concludes that to reach the two-degree target (a target still attainable according to the IPCC),  major changes would be needed to energy systems ending the ‘business-as-usual’ scenario.

A clear relevance to the growing divestment movement is found in this statement:

“[M]itigation policy could devalue fossil fuel assets, and reduce revenues for fossil fuel exporters.”

In other words, time to DIVEST if you haven’t already.

The inevitable move to a more equitable and sustainable energy economy as governments regulate emissions in order to meet their stated goal of limiting global warming below 2°C, means much of the known coal, oil and gas reserves of the fossil fuel industry will need to remain unburned, turning them into stranded assets and creating a large financial risk for the companies that own them.

The world’s political, business, and financial elite need to heed to the reality of the carbon bubble and commit to disinvest from fossil fuels.

Just last week, Archbishop Desmond Tutu added his voice in support of the growing divestment movement and called for an anti-apartheid style campaign against fossil fuel companies, which he blames for the “injustice” of climate change.

In his words: “It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. Already some colleges and pension funds have declared that they want their investments congruent with their beliefs.”

1495439_306624916155202_8200893887798348765_n

The solutions to make the shift from fossil fuels to renewables are clear. We need to stop pumping money into a rogue industry that is determined to maximize its profits at any cost. Divestment is the means to shift investments away from coal, oil and gas companies and into a more equitable and sustainable energy economy.

Investors have scientific evidence that if you put your money into fossil fuels you are complicit in wrecking our future.

We now know that catastrophic climate change can be averted without sacrificing living standards. The IPCC WGIII report concludes the transformation required to a world of clean energy and the ditching of dirty fossil fuels is eminently affordable.

Furthermore, the report states that diverting hundreds of billions of dollars from fossil fuels into renewable energy and cutting energy waste would shave just 0.06% off expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3% [1]  Moreover, the analysis did not include the benefits of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which could outweigh the costs. The benefits include reducing air pollution and improved energy security.

Fossil fuel companies and their financiers take note: the era of fossil fuel energy is ending.

 

[1] The Guardian IPCC Report: world must urgently switch to clean sources of energy

Pitzer College Divests From Fossil Fuels: Students Reflect On Our Victory And What Comes Next

Cross posted from Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign

University Press Release: http://bit.ly/1hJCbl1

The Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign is proud to announce that the Pitzer College Board of Trustees has committed to fossil fuel divestment as part of a holistic climate action model. In addition to divestment, the plan establishes an Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) investment policy, a segregated environmental fund, and a 25% carbon reduction by 2016. The plan also includes investing in renewable community projects, developing a green revolving fund, joining the Billion Dollar Challenge, and the establishment of a campus sustainability task force.

Driven by a vision of social and climate justice, our team has committed countless hours towards this victory through educational campaigns, actions, formal reports, and negotiations with the Board of Trustees. This decision is a testament to the power of student activism and Pitzer’s thoughtful process, and displays our institution’s commitment to aligning its endowment with its core values of social responsibility and environmental sustainability. We are proud to be part of a community that is capable of critically analyzing our role as members of a global society, and understanding the moral and political weight of our endowment.

Pitzer_win3

With privilege comes responsibility, and we believe that this action will effectively leverage Pitzer’s position as an institution of higher learning and a leader in sustainability. This commitment is meaningful because of the way it can influence those around us to take action. We hope this announcement will inspire a cascade of victories throughout the divestment movement and motivate further action towards climate justice.

As the movement for fossil fuel divestment gains strength, it will become increasingly unacceptable for colleges and other institutions to remain invested in such a destructive industry. These fossil fuel companies corrupt our democratic political process, prevent the transition towards a renewable economy, and value short-term profits over a creating a sustainable future.

Therefore, as students, we are grappling with what it means to inherit an earth that is becoming ever more unstable. There is clear evidence that current emission trends will lead to a global temperature increase of 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, creating a planet that is drastically different from the one on which “civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted” (Hansen). We are the first generation to look into our future and reasonably conclude that changes in global climate may make large parts of the planet uninhabitable within our lifetimes.

The climate crisis has no end in sight: we will be fighting for the rest of our lives and for generations to come. We need the passion of young people, the wisdom of our parents, the imagination of artists, and the ingenuity of innovators. We need continued and sustained action, because we are in this for the long haul. We need our anger, and we need love. But most of all, we need to bring our whole selves to this movement.

As we think about this victory, we know it is only the beginning. Pitzer’s commitment is something to be celebrated, but we are deeply aware that a crisis of this magnitude will continue to demand bold action from all of us, especially those with disproportionate influence in society.

We see this decision as a jumping-off point for us to engage with local anti-extraction, health, and labor struggles in the surrounding Los Angeles region. Climate change affects all of us, but we recognize that it is other communities who are being hit the hardest and bearing the brunt of the impacts.  These fights for justice are all interconnected, and we know there is a long way to go. As we stand on the brink of an uncertain future, we commit ourselves to this fight, and to working towards a common vision of sustainability, justice, and collective liberation.

Another big research paper showing divestment is a good idea

As many of you know, Aperio Group (an investment management and research firm) published a report back in 2012 titled Do the Investment Math: Building a Carbon-Free Portfolio. That report has been a foundational piece of the financial side of the divestment discourse; as it was one of the first to show, clearly and diligently, that fossil fuel divestment was a low risk move and over long periods of time could prove to enhance returns.

Well they’ve done it again. Aperio Group has just published a new report, BUILDING A CARBON-FREE EQUITY PORTFOLIO. In their new paper they look at a long timeline, from 1988 to 2013, and large sections of the market – with an emphasis on the US, Canadian, and Australian markets. Their conclusion: divestment presents low risk and slightly better returns.

The report begins, “When the idea of fossil fuel screening is raised, the first thing an endowment committee, foundation board or private investor wants to know is whether screening will impose a penalty. While there is no definitive answer, the often-presumed assumption of a return penalty is not consistently borne out by research.”

After a few clear explanations of methodology, terminology, and charted results, Aperio is able to answer the institutional investors (endowments and pensions) that are worried about losing money when they divest.

I would also like to point out the humble and honest tenor found throughout the report. For example, “The hypothetical returns for Tracking Portfolios should in no way be construed to imply that divestment leads to better performance. It shows only that over the time periods analyzed, this version of divestment just happened to play out that way.” It’s funny, you don’t get that same humility in the counter report published by the American Petroleum Institute.

Anyway, enjoy the report. I hope this helps your campaign build a more factual based conversation with the trustees.

We delivered their ask for 1000 signatures

hej hejjjjj

In October 2013, students from various institutions came together to campaign against our university’s investments. We wanted to have a democratic say in the way our university acts and functions, and we wanted to question the politics made by fossil fuel companies all over the world.

We started our campaign with a petition. We wrote opinion pieces, and were soon interviewed by two local newspapers. In one of the resulting pieces, the financial accountant of our university was interviewed. His comment was that there must be a strong and broad support for the campaign. The sustainability director was also interviewed. Here’s what he said:

“There is a difference between if ten or a thousand people thinks this is an important question.”

After this statement, that number started to appear as a goal. A thousand. When we have a thousand signatures, the university might actually consider this a wide-spread and relevant students’ opinion. So here’s what we did:

Gothenburg University has around 40 000 students, and the campuses are spread all over town. We wanted to reach out with the Fossil Free message to the whole of the university. During one week, we decided that we would try to be present on as many campuses as possible. We also created a Facebook event called “1000 signatures against the fossil fuel industry”. The event spread quickly among the university’s students, and when out on campuses, we really felt that a majority of the students we spoke to agreed with the ethical arguments of the campaign and also eager to make a change. Our campaigning week out on the campuses left us with a lot of optimism!

Now, two weeks after we launched this effort, we’ve reached 1000 signatures. Reaching our goal – a thousand signatures – feels incredible. The question is: What next? Well, when they ask, we deliver. When we ask, will they deliver?

hemskt mkt moa

Today we participated as panelists in a seminar arranged by the Sustainability Unit of the University. The seminar was about sustainable investing and the Fossil Free campaign. During the seminar we presented our demands – we imagine that this seminar will give us lots of momentum. When asked, everyone in the audience agreed that the university should divest – students and employees equally.

gu bild

Spring 2014 might actually be the spring when Gothenburg University goes Fossil Free.

Written by
Moa Karlsson, Gothenburg University

A New Beginning: Getting a ‘NO’

Campaigns in the US Fossil Fuel Divestment movement have been working hard for almost two years now. Through building power on campus and negotiating with administrators, campaigns have built strong foundations – even when told ‘no’ on divestment.

Does getting a ‘no’ on your campaign mean that your campaign is over?

No. It means we are just getting to the good stuff. Public ‘no’s from major universities have done nothing but drive the conversation more and more in the media, and help activists dig in deep for the long haul fight of climate justice organizing.

The good stuff:
1. Discover new opportunities. Coming back from a ‘no’ requires you to dig deeper, strengthen existing relationships, and build a more diverse coalition. As you become more grounded in the realities and intersections of your campus and community, new opportunities to collaborate will emerge.
2. Give ourselves the permission to escalate. We can create a strategy built on bold actions that demonstrate our power and pull specific decisionmakers back to a point of decision and advance the campaign.
3. Create the public narrative the divestment movement is seeking. Good stories have compelling ‘choice points’ – and this is ours. We can choose to walk away – or we can choose to reveal the deep-seeded, and often hidden, power the fossil fuel industry has over our institutions, elected officials, and communities. Add in reports like the IPCC Impacts document – and we are proving that we have both credibility and momentum on our side.
4. Build Power through Secondary Victories. A ‘no’ forces us to be more creative with our organizing strategy. Check out Chloe’s piece on what happened at Harvard today: Harvard became the first higher education institution in the US to join the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. They also signed onto the Carbon Disclosure Project, and (yes, there’s more) created a Climate Change Solutions Fund to invest in renewable energy technologies. Harvard is giving $1 million to the fund this fall, and they’re raising an additional $19 million.

Harvard is recognizing that their investments do have an impact…but still investing millions in climate destruction as we take these productive steps forward. So here’s Divest Harvard’s response: http://divestharvard.com/divest-harvards-response-to-harvards-plan-to-confront-climate-change/. These secondary victories build momentum and power as we ramp up to bigger and bolder asks.

So what do we do? Get creative, start linking up with other campaigns, get trained, and dig deep on with on campus organizing. We need to be constantly building power and showing that power to win, whether it is targeting secondary movement targets or primary on campus targets.If you are wanting to define escalation, hear powerful stories, plan bold action, and gain the resources to take your campaign to the next level [like this action planning template] : get on the NEST calls 9 pm EDT/6 pm PDT every other Tuesday starting April 8th. [The following two calls are on April 22nd and May 6th.] Call number is 605.475.4000 and code 193981#.NEST Call Meme.jpg

Calling on Wash. U. to cut ties with Peabody Energy

Student activism looks very different in 2014 than it did just 5 years ago, when I began organizing as a student at Washington University in St. Louis. Students are less trustful of their colleges’ authority, and are more willing to take bold action to counter it. When a few friends and I dropped 5 banners in 2010 at an energy conference on campus, I felt like I was taking a major risk.

It began like this. In 2009, Greg Boyce, the CEO of Peabody Energy–one of the worst of the worst fossil fuel companies, had just been appointed to our board. In exchange, Peabody had given a large chunk of money to the school to do research on “Clean Coal”. I capitalize this phrase because it is a concept that exists only in marketing, not in reality. From that point on, students began resisting our University’s ties to the industry. This culminated in 2010 at the University’s conference on “America’s Energy Future.” It was a glorified advertisement for the coal and nuclear industries, and we students wanted to call it what it was — an exchange of our University’s academic (and perhaps ethical) reputation for funding.  We interrupted the conclusion of the conference (an open meet-and-greet) with 80 angry students and 5 banner drops. The campaign against Peabody has progressed since then through political action with a ballot measure in St. Louis, and more recently, with students leading a call to Wash U for complete divestment from the fossil fuel industry.

Like the campaign, our movement has progressed since 2009, too. 5 years later, dropping banners is child’s play. Students are walking out of classstaging sit-ins in their administrative buildings, and are locking themselves to the White House fence to call for climate sanity.  Perhaps it’s because we are now half a decade past the economic crisis of the late aughts with little hope for a full recovery or easy employment to counter mountains of student debt. Perhaps it’s that in tough economic times, many universities eschew their high-flying moral mission statements in favor of the safety of a good corporate deal (bring on the funding!). Or maybe it’s that 1,000+ brave souls rang in a new era of civil disobedience in our movement sitting in front of the White House to stop the Keystone XL pipeline in 2011.

But I think the real difference is that young people are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The consequences for speaking out or taking bold action against our institutions pale in comparison to the consequences of inaction. This week’s IPCC report confirms (again) that the impact of climate change will be much, much worse than we can fathom. It’s clearer than ever that our system is broken. And yet, institutions like my own Alma Mater, Wash U, continue to unblinkingly support the fossil fuel industry through seats on their boards, the gleeful acceptance of research dollars, and by churning out graduates eager for any jobs to pay off their debt in a failing economy.

The truth is, our young lives are dominated by fear — and that fear can paralyze us, or it can break down the barriers that keep us from authentic action. That’s why I’m so pleased to repost this article from Washington University’s student paper, written by a group of students unafraid to call out Wash U’s untenable ties to Peabody Energy. Read on for more of the details of Peabody’s behavior and what students see as the necessary response.

Wash U students — a few years graduated and a few hundred miles away, I stand with you in your fight!

Calling on Wash. U. to cut ties with Peabody Energy

Op-Ed written by Rachel Goldstein, David Binstock, Madeleine Balchan, Jamal Sadrud-Din, and reposted from Student Life, the campus newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis

In light of recent behavior by Peabody Energy, we are disappointed to see this corporation continuing to act in its own self-interest, in staunch opposition to the will of the people and at the expense of the public good. We are calling on this university to end its partnership with Peabody Energy.

On Feb. 11, as a result of a suit filed by Peabody, a judge ruling placed a temporary injunction on the city-wide “Take Back St. Louis” ballot initiative. This initiative, which was brought to the Board of Elections with 36,000 signatures, called for the city to end tax incentives to fossil-fuel extraction corporations, and invest public money and lands into renewable energy and sustainability initiatives. Peabody filed for suit against the initiative, claiming discrimination, and the judge ruled in their favor, citing equal protection to constitutional rights under Citizens United, a Supreme Court ruling of which even President Obama has been outwardly critical. This legal action has kept the initiative off of the April 8 ballot.

Elsewhere, in Saline County, Ill., Peabody’s expansion of a mining operation is threatening the local farming community of Rocky Branch. Despite strong opposition from the community, Peabody has continued its aggressive logging of the proposed site, and is attempting to take control of and divert important local roads. Community members are so threatened that they are now blockading the roads to deter Peabody. Residents are also worried about the fate of their town if coal mining operations expand, having witnessed and tolerated the blasting, hazardous coal dust, and polluted waterways of the neighboring Cottage Grove strip mine.

These are not the first instances of unethical or exploitative behavior by Peabody, but it provides an opportune moment for the Washington University community to reflect on its relationship with unscrupulous corporations. More…

World’s biggest investment fund doubles investments in renewables

The Norwegian government announced today a mandate for the country’s sovereign wealth fund to nearly double its investments in renewable energy amounting to $5-8.3 billion.

That’s great news! In the words of 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben: “Even those nations that made their fortune on oil are starting to see it’s not the future – the race to the exits is starting.”

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund also referred to as oil fund (most of the country’s proceeds from oil and gas went into it), is the world’s biggest investment fund valued at $840 billion USD. It owns 1.2% of the world’s listed stocks. Decisions on the fund’s investments can therefore be a real game changer with global implications.

It’s great that Norway is moving more money into renewables but there is little point if they’re spending huge sums of money digging up more fossil fuels at the same time. Now we need to see leadership from Norway by quickly divesting from fossil fuels and diverting that money towards renewables.

The Norwegian Parliament has set up a an expert group to assess whether the fund should phase out investments in coal, oil and gas, which currently represent 10% of the fund’s value.

The wealth fund’s remit is to make investments that benefit future generations. In the past it has excluded harmful industries such as nuclear weapon producers and tobacco companies from its portfolio.

7 Reasons to Sell Your Coal, Oil and Gas Stocks [Infographic]

Seven reasons to sell coal, oil and gas stocks

Click to enlarge

Most people think that coal, oil and gas stocks issued by companies like Shell, Exxon, Chevron, Arch Coal and others are reliable investments.  In the past five years, however, a number of trends are challenging that conventional wisdom.

Well-known and reputable financial firms in the U.S. and abroad have published reports highlighting a number of ways fossil fuel companies may have peaked as good investment options.  Just in the past month, the $850 billion Norwegian sovereign wealth fund — money earned from oil extraction — announced it would consider screening out fossil fuels for purely financial reasons.  And the British Parliament warned the Bank of England that it should consider the threat that climate change poses to its investments.

Regardless of what warnings experts offer, some experts and lay-investors alike will be resistant to change. They’ll prefer to rest their faith in the status quo – that “if it’s worked up until now, it’s probably a safe bet.”  On the other hand, memory of the devastating impact of the housing bubble and the consequent recession may be enough to spur investors to heed these new warnings.

Experts’ arguments for why coal, oil and gas stocks are not the investments they once were fall into a few categories: Seven reasons to sell coal, oil and gas stocks -- cover

1. Fossil fuel stocks have underperformed for several years

You won’t find the oil and gas industries listed among Morningstar’s top 20 best-performing stock sectors over the past year (or three years or five years).  And coal is near the bottom of the list!  What sectors are doing better? Computer systems, pharmaceuticals, apparel manufacturing…even solar has done better in the past year.

Citations:

a)     Morningstar.com, Cap-Weighted Industry Returns. http://news.morningstar.com/stockReturns/CapWtdIndustryReturns.html  (The Oil & Gas Refining and Marketing sector is excepted because it does not extract or hold fossil fuel reserves.)

b)     Trillium Asset Management, Extracting Fossil Fuels From Your Portfolio. Lists major profitable companies which could mirror coal, oil and gas stocks as far as return.  http://www.trilliuminvest.com/news-articles-category/recent-commentary/extracting-fossil-fuels-from-your-portfolio-a-guide-to-personal-divestment-and-reinvestment/

 

2. Studies show screening out fossil fuels is safe

Studies by financial firms show that the risk added by taking coal, oil and gas stocks out of retirement funds is very low.  A study by the Aperio group puts the added risk (just risk) at 0.0101 percent.

Citations:

a)     Aperio Group, Do the Investment Math: Building a Carbon-Free Portfolio, 2013. http://www.aperiogroup.com/system/files/documents/building_a_carbon_free_portfolio.pdf (p.4)

b)     Impax Asset Management, Beyond Fossil Fuels: the Investment Case for Fossil Fuel Divestment, July 4, 2013. http://www.impaxam.com/media/178162/20130704_impax_white_paper_fossil_fuel_divestment_final.pdf

c)      Advisor Partners,  study (free registration to view it) http://www.advisorpartners.com/fossil-fuel-divestment-risks-and-opportunities/

 

3. Fossil-free portfolios are performing well

A number of individuals and organizations, like Unity College, Sterling College and the Wallace Global Fund, have divested from fossil fuels already, and they’re doing better than the market average.  Several financial firms have run simulations showing that if you had screened coal, oil and gas stocks out of your portfolios five to ten years ago, you’d have gotten as good of a return — or better.

Citations:

a)     Unity, Fall 2013. “[D]ivesting from investments in fossil fuels have not harmed Unity’s portfolios.” http://issuu.com/unitycollege/docs/fall_magazine/1, p18.

b)     Aperio Group, Do the Investment Math: Building a Carbon-Free Portfolio, 2013. http://www.aperiogroup.com/system/files/documents/building_a_carbon_free_portfolio.pdf (p5)

c)      Stephanie Leighton, email, January 15, 2014: “At Trillium Asset Management, Fossil Fuel Free portfolios have performed in line with the S&P1500 benchmark —net of fees — since inception in January of 2007.”

d)     Impax Asset Management, Beyond Fossil Fuels: the Investment Case for Fossil Fuel Divestment, July 4, 2013. Impax Asset Management tracked the past seven years of international equity markets, showing that if fossil fuel companies are removed from the MSCI World index, then the resulting portfolio would have made 2.3% per year. A portfolio with fossil fuel companies like Exxon and Chevron would net an average annual return of 1.8% for the same period. http://www.impaxam.com/media/178162/20130704_impax_white_paper_fossil_fuel_divestment_final.pdf (p.5)

e)     MSCI looked at the impact of excluding companies owning carbon reserves from the MSCI All Country World Index (MSCI ACWI). It determined that over a five-year period the active return differential was 1.2% better for the same index without the fossil fuel investments. (June 2013; updated December 2013) http://www.msci.com/resources/factsheets/MSCI_ESG_Research_FAQ_on_Fossil-Free_Investing.pdf (p.5)

f)      MSCI published a broader analysis in December 2013 looking at several investment scenarios that reduced exposure to fossil fuels, and a backtest of a fossil fuel divestment scenario outperformed the MSCI ACWI benchmark. http://www.msci.com/resources/factsheets/MSCI_ESG_Research_Issue_Brief_Options_for_Reducing_Fossil_Fuel_Exposure.pdf (p.3)

 

4. Coal is in decline

Given that all the cheap coal has been mined, and that the U.S. and other countries are imposing clean-air and emissions restrictions on power plants and mines, financial experts are downgrading the investment prospects for coal.

Citations:

a)     Goldman Sachs, The window for thermal coal investment is closing, July 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GS_Rocks__Ores_-_Thermal_Coal_July_2013.pdf

b)     Wall Street Journal, Chinese Demand for Coal is Cooling, September 22, 2013. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324886704579052970699081290

c)      Seeking Alpha, King Coal: Fading U.S. Coal Exports Does Not Augur Well for the Industry, September 19, 2013 (free registration required). seekingalpha.com/article/1703072-king-coal-fading-u-s-coal-exports-does-not-augur-well-for-the-industry

d)     Bloomberg, Coal Seen as New Tobacco Sparking Investor Backlash: Commodities, November 20, 2013.  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-20/coal-seen-as-new-tobacco-sparking-investor-backlash-commodities.html

e)     University of Oxford, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, Stranded Assets Programme, Stranded Down Under:  “In summary, for a number of reasons China’s coal consumption is unlikely to grow as fast as expected. As China has a significant influence on coal prices this will result in downward pressure on coal prices. ” http://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/research/stranded-assets/Stranded Down Under Report.pdf (p.65)

f)      ThinkProgress, Goldman Sachs Sells Its Stake In What Would Be The Largest Coal Terminal On The West Coast, January 8, 2014. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/01/08/3132821/goldman-sach-divests-coal/

g)     Investing Daily, The Outlook for 2014, January 7, 2014: “There are a few US coal [Master Limited Partnerships], many of which have seen their market caps decimated in the past 2 ½ years. Most MLP investors should avoid this sector, as more restrictive EPA regulations and competition from natural gas and renewables will continue to put pressure on coal producers.” http://www.investingdaily.com/19171/the-outlook-for-2014/

h)     Energy China Forum, China shift may mean coal days are numbered, August, 21, 2013: “Mr Paolo Coghe warned that if the Chinese economy was slowing down, China could become a net exporter of coal, which would be very negative for prices.” http://www.energychinaforum.com/news/74804.shtml

i)       Washington Post, Coal’s burnout: Have investors moved on to cleaner energy sources?, January 1, 2011.  “’Coal is a dead man walkin’,’ says Kevin Parker, global head of asset management and a member of the executive committee at Deutsche Bank. ‘Banks won’t finance them. Insurance companies won’t insure them. The EPA is coming after them. . . . And the economics to make it clean don’t work.’” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/01/AR2011010102146.html

 

5. Natural gas’ future is unpredictable

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technologies led to a recent boom in natural gas extraction in the U.S., but natural gas’ future doesn’t look so bright.  With fracking putting more local water supplies at risk of contamination, homeowners, insurance companies, and local governments have begun to fight back. As citizens and governments rein in an industry gone wild, gas won’t be as good an investment.

Citations:

a)     Financial Times, Shale boom leaves investors underwhelmed, January 5, 2014. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/127effba-73ca-11e3-beeb-00144feabdc0.html (free registration required)

b)     Bloomberg, Shale Grab in U.S. Stalls as Falling Value Repels Buyers. August 18, 2013. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-18/shale-grab-in-u-s-stalls-as-falling-values-repel-buyers.html

c)      Philly.com, Pa. Supreme Court jolts shale industry. December 21, 2013. http://articles.philly.com/2013-12-21/news/45419865_1_gas-act-act-13-marcellus-shale-coalition

d)     Rolling Stone, The Big Fracking Bubble, March 1, 2012: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-big-fracking-bubble-the-scam-behind-the-gas-boom-20120301

e)     Headwaters Economics, Long-Term Energy Development Has Negative Impacts on Western Counties, December 2013: “[W]hen fossil fuel development plays a role in a local economy for a long period of time there are negative effects on per capita income, crime rates, and educational attainment.”   http://headwaterseconomics.org/energy/western-counties-fossil-fuel-development

f)      Food and Water Watch, The Social Costs of Fracking: A Pennsylvania Case Studyhttp://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/Social_Costs_of_Fracking.pdf

g)     There a number of studies either completed or underway which show methane emissions could potential negate any climate benefits from a shift away from coal and even accelerate climate impacts in the long run. http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGIAR5_WGI-12Doc2b_FinalDraft_All.pdf http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-011-0061-5

h)     The White House, A Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions, March 28, 2014.  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/03/28/strategy-cut-methane-emissions

i)       Food and Water Watch, Anti-Fracking Movement Map, accessed March 20, 2014.  http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/fracking/fracking-action-center/map/

j)       CBS Los Angeles, City Council Passes LA ‘Fracking’ Ban, February 28, 2014. http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2014/02/28/city-council-to-vote-on-la-fracking-moratorium/

k)     Boulder Weekly, The fracking/real estate conundrum, December 12, 2013.  http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-12047-the-fracking_real-estate-conundrum.html

 

6. Renewable energy will soon be cheaper than fossil fuels

By 2020, in most places, it will be more profitable and faster to install renewable energy than to build a coal, oil or gas plant.  This will reduce the value of coal, oil and gas stocks.

Citations:

a)     International Energy Agency, Renewable Energy Medium-Term Market Report 2013. “[O]nshore wind and solar PV – have reached, or are approaching, competitiveness in a number of markets without generation-based incentives. In some markets with good resources, the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for onshore wind is competitive or close to competitiveness versus new coal- and natural gas-fired power plants.” http://www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/MTrenew2013SUM.pdf

b)     TheEnergyCollective.com, Why have IEA Renewables Growth Projections Been So Much Lower Than the Out-Turn?, October 14, 2013. http://theenergycollective.com/onclimatechangepolicy/286586/why-have-iea-s-projections-renewables-growth-been-so-much-lower-out-tur

c)      Bloomberg, Renewables Investment Seen Tripling Amidst Supply Glut, April 21, 2013. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-21/renewables-investment-seen-tripling-amid-supply-glut.html

d)     Energy Post, How the IEA exaggerates the costs and underestimates the growth of solar power, March 4, 2014.  http://www.energypost.eu/iea-exaggerates-costs-underestimates-growth-solar-power/

e)     RenewEconomy, Bugger the utilities: wind and solar will be built anyway. July 25, 2013 http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/bugger-the-utilities-wind-and-solar-will-be-built-anyway-74216

f)      ThinkProgress, Solar is Ready Now, “Ferocious Cost Reductions” Make Solar PV Competitive, June 9, 2011. http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/06/09/241120/solar-is-ready-now-“ferocious-cost-reductions-make-solar-pv-competitive/

g)     Wall Street Journal, Norway to Raise Oil Fund’s Exposure to Renewable Energy, March 13, 2014.  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304914904579437082858746804

h)     U.S. Energy Information Administration, Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook 2013, January 28, 2013. http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm

 

7. When the carbon bubble bursts, fossil fuel stocks will plunge

Fossil fuel companies hold five times more coal, oil and gas reserves than can be safely burned without creating out-of-control climate change and more extreme weather.  With countries establishing policies to curb climate change, these reserves most likely can never be burned.  According to financial analysts at HSBC, Citi, the London School of Economics, and others, this will reduce the value of fossil fuel stocks by 40 to 60 percent.  Remember how the housing bubble and subsequent recession forced people to delay their retirements when their pensions lost value?  Experts estimate that this “carbon bubble” is at least twice as large.

Citations:

a)     The Guardian, Carbon bubble will plunge the world into another financial crisis – report, April 18, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/apr/19/carbon-bubble-financial-crash-crisis

b)     HSBC Global Research, Oil and carbon revisited: Value at risk from ‘unburnable’ carbon reserves, January 25, 2013. http://gofossilfree.org/files/2013/02/HSBCOilJan13.pdf

c)      Standard & Poors, What A Carbon-Constrained Future Could Mean For Oil Companies’ Creditworthiness, March 1, 2013. http://www.carbontracker.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/03/SnPCT-report-on-oil-sector-carbon-constraints_Mar0420133.pdf

d)     Financial Times, Investors warn moves to curb climate change will hit fuel demand, October 24, 2013. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/28b61824-3cb9-11e3-a8c4-00144feab7de.html

e)     Salon.com, Beware of the carbon bubble: The biggest threat you haven’t heard of yet, December 23, 2013.  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/23/beware_of_the_carbon_bubble_the_biggest_threat_to_the_environment_you_havent_heard_of_yet/

f)      Financial Times, Norway spurs rethink on fossil fuel companies, March 4, 2014.  http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/4b1c89dc-a313-11e3-ba21-00144feab7de.html


9 European divestment campaigns to look out for in 2014

After kicking off last autumn with the Fossil Free Europe tour, the divestment movement is blossoming all across the region. Here’s a list of 9 campaigns to look out for in 2014. Let’s start!

1. Jönköping University, Sweden

The university is not showing any interest in divesting, but student involvement is growing stronger. On the 25 March, the local group organised a creative action with balloons (carbon bubbles!), gathering 100 new signatures for their petition. Radio and all major regional news outlets have been covering their demands and the ongoing activities.

Jönköping University, Sweden

2. Gothenburg University, Sweden

Students started a petition last semester and were recognized by local media from the start – with coverage so far by radio, a newspaper, and a student news outlet. But hear this. In an interview, a university administration staff stated last month that “when they have 1000 names on that list, it will be different from a list of 10 names [which they presented at first]”. Guess what? They are now closing in on 1000 names (UPDATE: which they’ve passed as of today!).

Gothenburg University, Sweden

3. University of Glasgow, UK

The University of Glasgow Fossil Free campaign has been the fastest growing student campaign in the UK. Since Christmas their campaign has seen the University Court, the highest body in the institution, discuss divestment. This led to the creation of an investment advisory committee, which is set to make a recommendation to the University in the coming months.

To influence the decision, and show strong student support, the group has co-ordinated three high profile actions. They also organised a panel discussion with students, academics and politicians to discuss “Should universities invest in the fossil fuel industry?” which over 100 people attended.

The most recent action saw the group hand in their 1237 person strong petition to university Secretary, David Newall. Each petition name was written onto a piece of paper and attached to string. The string was then wrapped around the famous University of Glasgow cloisters in preparation for the hand in.

University of Glasgow, UK

4. University of East Anglia, UK

The University of East Anglia (UEA) Fossil Free campaign has had a number of setbacks this year, but that’s not stopped them campaigning and mobilising students! After becoming the first UK group to receive a rejection to their campaign demand, they received another before they were able to secure a meeting with the University. How? By escalating the campaign and applying constant pressure on the university. The group organised a national communications blockade, where students and members of the public from across the UK called, tweeted and facebooked the University asking why they won’t divest from fossil fuels. The message was loud and clear; #RejectionDenied. The group also managed to break 1000 signature barrier before their meeting with university management last week.

University of East Anglia, UK

5. Fossil Free Münster, Germany

The Fossil Free Münster group did not only choose one target institution but is actually campaigning on three of them: WWU University Münster, University of Applied Science, and the city of Münster. They went public with a petition and an action in the city center, and keep spreading the word about Fossil Free.

Thorough research showed that the city has investments in 10 of the top 200 fossil fuel companies by carbon reserves. The group’s outreach to civil society and the local government led to a first success. The Green Party included the demand for divestment in their election manifesto. Moreover, they pledged to support the implementation of fossil fuel divestment after the local elections in May.

Now the group is planning a high-profile panel discussion and will not stop mobilising until the city and the two universities have actually divested.

Fossil Free Münster, Germany

6. Fossil Free Berlin, Germany

The group Fossil Free Berlin started off with an Artivism Workshop. Without any further ado they joined the huge Energiewende demonstration in Berlin playing volleyball with the carbon bubble. The group’s expertise lies in spontaneity and creativity which they proved once more with interventions at a Shell-sponsored science slam.

The actions of Fossil Free Berlin are a crucial support for the divestment campaign targeting the biggest national development bank world wide – KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau). Despite its sustainable image, KfW is still funding new coal projects. This petition demands KfW to immediately stop any new investments in fossil fuels beginning with coal.

Fossil Free Berlin will continue to be innovative and has begun to spread the word about divestment throughout Berlin.

Fossil Free Berlin, Germany

7. Fossil Free VHL Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

Last year, when students handed over the Fossil Free letter, the Board responded very positively. Since then, students have been researching the finance flows and the possibilities of what their school can do to take leadership in fossil fuel divestment (since VHL does not have direct investments). Conversations with the finance manager have resulted in a letter from their school to Rabobank, asking them to provide a fossil free portfolio to VHL.

This week (3 April) there will be a meeting with the VHL board, in which the Fossil Free declaration will be proposed and if the board wants to sign onto that, a big victory-celebration-event will follow by the end of May (exactly one year after the letter was handed over).

Fossil Free VHL Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

8. Boxtel, The Netherlands

Boxtel is the first European municipality that declared themselves to become Fossil Free last year, in October 2013, at the kick-off event with Bill McKibben and Kumi Naidoo. Since then, they’ve inspired several other municipalities in the Netherlands to rethink their financial links with fossil fuel investments. Following from the initiative in Boxtel, also in Weert, Roermond and Utrecht Fossil Free letters have been sent and in two other towns initiatives have been started.

Boxtel will continue to take the lead in this initiative, also motivating all the frack-free municipalities in the Netherlands to also become Fossil Free.

Boxtel, The Netherlands

9. Bergen, Norway

In Bergen, a coalition of more than 9 local groups are mobilising to stop the appointment between the University of Bergen and Statoil (Norway’s largest oil company). Through the contract, Statoil will sponsor university research by 55 million NOK over a five year period, mostly channeled into petroleum research. The coalition deems the appointment unethical, and the rector has now asked for an ethical evaluation by the National research committee on ethical issues, which expect to reach a decision in April 2014. So far, the campaign has got 653 signatures.

Exxon announce to exploit all carbon reserves as scientists highlight sweeping climate impacts

Exxon: Climate change? Keep drillingFollowing shareholder pressure, oil giant ExxonMobil published two reports on how climate change will affect their business model yesterday. Exxon announced that while climate change warrants action, they do not see a risk of their oil and gas reserves becoming stranded. The company asserts that “all of ExxonMobil’s hydrocarbon assets will be needed” to meet global energy demand.

The reports have made it very clear that Exxon have no intention of adapting their business model whatsoever. To stay within the 2 °C limit, 80% of the fossil fuel industries’ known carbon reserves need to remain unburnt. Yet, Exxon is spending $33 billion this year alone to discover and develop yet more carbon.

Toughening climate regulations and other factors such as decreasing costs of renewable energy sources and changing resource landscapes threaten to turn much of Exxon’s reserves into obsolete stranded assets. According to Bloomberg’s Carbon Risk Valuation Tool, stranded assets could make Exxon’s share price decline by 45%.

Exxon did not shy away from announcing that they intend to exploit their carbon reserves until the last drop, the same day the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) launched its latest report highlighting the sweeping impacts of climate change on humans on every continent.

It’s wrong to profit from an industry that is wrecking our future and fiduciary duty must reflect that. Institutional investors in particular must start to play an active stewardship role with the funds they are entrusted with.

Let’s continue to demand divestment from Exxon and other fossil fuel companies to stop them from executing their catastrophic business model. Investors need to pull their money out of high-carbon assets as quickly as possible.

Press release: Dutch Cuts to Coal Finance a Good Sign for the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

CONTACT: Melanie Mattauch, European Communications Coordinator, melanie@350.org, +49151 5812 0184

Yesterday’s announcement that the Netherlands would join the United States, United Kingdom and others in ending support for public financing for new coal-fired power plants is a good sign for the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, according to 350.org. [1]

“This is another sign that the coal industry is on its last legs,” said Tim Ratcliffe, European Divestment Campaigner for 350.org, which is helping coordinate the global movement to divest from the fossil fuel industry. “There’s a growing consensus that coal has no place in a carbon constrained world. Coal isn’t just bad news for the climate, it’s increasingly bad news for any financial portfolio. Institutional investors should read the writing on the wall and divest.”

In their joint announcement, the United States and Netherlands stated, “We emphasise that our work to scale up climate-friendly investments in developing countries is most effective when combined with reducing public incentives for high-carbon infrastructure.”

“We need to redirect the flow of capital away from carbon-intensive investments and into climate solutions,” said Ratcliffe. “As value-driven institutions, universities, churches, and pension funds should be leaders in helping speed up this transition.”

Dutch campaigners call on the Dutch pension fund ABP, one of the largest pension funds in the world, to divest from fossil fuels. ABP’s large exposure to high-carbon assets, puts the Netherlands at risk, according to a recent study by the Greens/ European Free Alliance. [2] The largest part of ABP’s investments in commodities worth €10 billion is related to oil and gas that risk turning into stranded assets.

Liset Meddens, Coordinator of Fossil Free NL with 350.org said, “ABP is entrusted with our money to secure our future, not to finance an industry whose business model is based on wrecking our future. ABP needs to recognise the financial and environmental risks of fossil fuel assets and start phasing out their investments in this dirty industry.”

The Dutch pension fund would thereby follow Norway’s lead. Norway has set up an expert group to see if its $840bn oil fund (the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund) should stop investing in fossil fuel companies.

Yesterday’s announcement will also place a new level of scrutiny on the United States, Netherlands, World Bank, and other large investors to make sure that they are living up to their commitment to stop supporting high-carbon infrastructure. Analysis by the group Oil Change International, for example, has shown that despite its climate commitments, the World Bank actually increased its funding for fossil fuel projects between 2012 and 2013. [3] Meanwhile, the Obama administration is currently deliberating on whether or not approve a permit for the carbon-intensive Keystone XL pipeline.

“It would be completely hypocritical for the Obama Administration to say that it wants to reduce public support for high-carbon infrastructure and then approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which is a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet, the Canadian tar sands,” said Jamie Henn, 350.org Strategy and Communications Director. “If the U.S. wants its climate commitments to be taken seriously by the international community, it needs to reject Keystone XL.”

###

NOTES TO EDITORS

Follow #ABPfossielvrij for updates

[1] Joint statement by the United States and the Netherlands on Climate Change and Financing the Transition to Low-Carbon Investments Abroad

[2] Report The Price of Doing Too Little Too Late: The impact of the carbon bubble on the EU financial system available here

[3] Oil Change International: World Bank increasing fossil fuel lending

##

Vermont Stands in Solidarity with #RejectionDenied

In the climate movement, failure is not an option. Failure means the worst scenario, it means hurting our children, it means giving up on that irresistible future that we all dream of. For some of us, it is incomprehensible. Why isn’t everyone jumping up to take action? Why don’t they understand the urgency? Why is everyone holding on to business as usual as if it is so great?

Unfortunately, on Friday, members of the Vermont Senate Government Operations Committee voted for business as usual and failed to pass S. 131 out of committee. The bill would have divested the Vermont State Pension fund from the top 200 fossil fuel companies, which make up one percent of the fund. After two years of rallies, passionate testimony from concerned citizens of all ages, and multiple studies, one testimony from the State Treasurer at the 11th hour scared the senators into voting down the bill. The treasurer’s testimony focused on a study from the Vermont Pension Investment Committee that looked at the cost of divestment from the entire energy sector, not just the worst 200 fossil fuel companies. It didn’t take the carbon bubble into account, and it didn’t reflect the language of the bill.

The bill would have required divestment within the next 5 years; a time period we felt was prudent for a shift of investments to avoid a 40-60% loss in value in our fossil fuel investments and to get on the path towards that better future. For the record, the 40-60% loss in value is a figure agreed upon by the state treasurer, a Dartmouth study, and an HSBC bank study. Even Shell Oil has stated that they “expect that a growing share of our CO2 emissions will be subject to regulation and result in increasing our costs.” Once again, we are hit with a very confusing notion that we should risk pushing ourselves over 2 degrees of global temperature rise to get a slightly higher return on investments estimated from old models. Should we really be invested in companies that give free pizzas as a response to poisoning the air? Should we trust companies that think providing you with a tank of bottled water is compensation for contaminating your tap water and all the water within miles of your home? Unfortunately, business as usual right now means that our concept of the economy is held in higher esteem than the very conditions that we need for life itself.

On a positive note, our efforts did push the Treasurer to help in the creation of a fossil fuel free mutual fund. The mutual fund is an option for state employees to invest additional retirement funds in. It is a positive step, and we are glad to see the emergence of these type of funds in some capacity.

However, we are disappointed in the Vermont senators, and we refuse to accept no as an answer to the call for divestment. With new studies released every day, the impending crisis looms nearer and as one NASA study put it, “the window to take action is closing.”  We remind ourselves that we are bigger than politics, bigger than business as usual, and bigger than fossil fuels. We have everything to fight for, and fight we will.

Maine and Massachusetts are making headway on their divestment campaigns and we are looking forward to entering the fight invigorated and with strong support around the northeast. With every action to divest from fossil fuel industries, the threat of the carbon bubble increases. With every state that is making noise, we gain more leverage than ever to achieve positive change. We will not stop until we see that our future is livable.  So, I urge those who believe in a livable future to continue being loud, attending rallies, calling your legislators, and spreading the word in your own creative way.

 

Exxon bows to shareholder pressure to report on carbon asset risk

Climate regulation will hurt fossil fuel industryFollowing shareholder pressure, oil giant Exxon Mobil has agreed to report on how climate change will affect its business model on Thursday last week.

The Carbon Asset Risk report due later this month will disclose how Exxon plans to respond to the risk that toughening regulations will render much of its reserves worthless as stranded assets. Exxon is the first major fossil fuel company to provide this information.

While increased transparency is welcome, a report won’t do much to mitigate the carbon asset risk that is inherent in Exxon Mobil’s business model. The agreement with shareholders requires Exxon to start talking about these risks. It does not require accepting its role in fueling climate change, let alone reducing carbon emissions.

To avert runaway climate change and meet governments’ agreed goal to limit global warming below 2 °C however, 80 percent of the known carbon reserves of the fossil industry need to remain unburnt.

It is good news that there is increasing awareness that fossil fuel companies are currently grossly overvalued. Investors now need to take the logical next step and pull their money out of high-carbon assets.

Exxon’s move is just the latest example of a shifting trend as the high risk of fossil fuel assets is more and more acknowledged. Earlier this year, 70 global investors managing over $3 trillion of assets demanded the oil, gas and coal companies asses the risks that climate change poses to their business plans. Here are some examples from earlier this month:

  • In its annual and strategic report for 2013, Royal Dutch Shell warns that its profitability will be hit as governments step up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier this year, Shell had already reported a 48 percent decline in expected earnings.
  • Norway decides to set up an expert group to see if its $840bn oil fund (the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund) should stop investing in fossil fuel companies.
  • A study commissioned by the the Greens/ European Free Alliance warns that over €1 trillion in European financial institutions is at risk from the carbon bubble.

Now we need to move from awareness to action! It’s high time to divest from fossil fuels!

Unanimous Vote for Divestment from Western Washington University Associated Students Board

Guest Post from Jenny Godwin of Divest WWU

This past Wednesday evening, March 12th, the Associated Students of Western Washington University gave a unanimous 7-0 vote to urge the WWU Foundation to divest from its $1.5 million invested in fossil fuels. In addition, the ask calls for an amendment to the WWU Foundation’s social responsibility clause: to include fossil fuels exclusion alongside that of tobacco and alcohol stocks. The ask came on the heels of five months of Divestment Study Group meetings since the group’s formation last spring, with over a dozen presentations compiled by the student, faculty/staff and Foundation board member committee. Having crafted this information into a thirty page document, this was presented as an info item by the AS VP for Student Life to the AS Board the Wednesday before last, March 5th

With guidance from Divest Western team members to craft strong language for the AS Board to finalize, the March 12th action item vote set the dominos falling towards the WWU Foundation Board’s next quarterly meeting this May. With Divestment as an agenda item for the Board’s discussion, students plan to keep a strong presence in the campaign moving forward into spring quarter and into next fall. Students packed the room for the Wednesday vote, carrying orange Divest Western! signs and flipping them to a THANK YOU! after unanimous decision.

divest vote

This vote marks a strong show of support for the student-lead, faculty and community supported campaign that began in December 2012 with a Students for Renewable Energy group trip to Seattle for Bill Mckibben’s first stop on the Do the Math Tour. The Divest Western team plans to create a hub soon for both faculty and alumni to voice their strong support for divestment, urging the Foundation to commit to the five-year divestment process before the December 2014 deadline ask date.

DIVEST WESTERN NOW!

Talk Divest, The Fossil Free Mentorship Project

talkdivestlogo

CSSC, As You Sow, REC and 350.org have been working on a new project that we hope will help you with your campaigns. It’s called Talk Divest. We know that lots of campaigns around the country have been getting no’s or struggling to answer questions that your colleges and boards pose.

Talk Divest will set you up with mentors who can meet with your group a few times and help walk you through questions like: how do we deal with commingled funds? Will the endowment really lose money? and are their managers that can do divestment for us?

On the webpage you can find a map of participating mentors (which will grow overtime), a sample introductory email to mentors, and a few tips on how to best engage with mentors. Talk Divest is a communication tool that we hope will provide a valuable resource to your campaign.

If you’re working with a staff organizer you can talk to them about the program or visit http://gofossilfree.org/talkdivest/ for more info.

Press Release: Two new reports, one conclusion: pressing need to divest from fossil fuels

CONTACT: Hoda Baraka – Global Communications Manager 350.org – hoda@350.org +201001-840990

May Ng – Communications Coordinator - 350.org Australia may@350.org.au +61420-733-429

Reports conclude over €1 trillion in European financial institutions at risk from growing carbon bubble, while divestment from fossil fuels will not harm returns

Two new reports released today in Brussels and Sydney will help strengthen the case for fossil fuel divestment, with one report emphasizing the growing risk of a carbon bubble [1] resulting from overexposure to high carbon assets, and the other concluding that responsibly divesting from fossil fuels will not hurt a portfolio’s financial performance.

The first report, a Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA) Group of the European commissioned study, investigates the carbon exposure of Europe’s top 43 banks and pension funds and assess the risk a carbon shock posed to them. The results of the study, entitled The Price of Doing Too Little Too Late: The impact of the carbon bubble on the EU financial system, [2] presented at a conference taking place in Brussels today [3], conclude that the most cost-effective pathway to limit the risk of the carbon bubble would be a quick and decisive transition to a low-carbon economy with ambitious energy and climate targets.

The study highlights a number of individual institutions which are at risk, and with them their associated countries. This is particularly the case for France where two of the largest European banks (Société Général and BNP Paribas) have a “relatively high” exposure, and the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, where national pension funds have a “high” exposure. According to the report, the exposure to the carbon bubble has been markedly higher for the pension fund sector than it has been for the banking sector.

Out of the 23 large EU pension funds researched in this study, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) — the principal pension scheme provided by Universities, Higher Education and other associated institutions for their employees in the UK — has an overwhelmingly large amount of carbon risk in their portfolio.

The overall exposure of the European financial institutions into high carbon assets has been calculated to be over €1 trillion, though it is important to note that this is still a conservative estimate.

Reinhard Bűtikofer, industrial policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament said: “A new study we commissioned clearly shows the potential losses of a carbon shock to Europe’s top 20 banks and top 23 pension funds. The result is sobering. With over €1 trillion in high-carbon assets, we have identified that the carbon bubble is a significant risk particularly for a number of EU Member States and EU financial institutions. Investments in fossil fuel companies could therefore quickly turn into fool’s gold. The EU’s business-as-usual strategy entails greater risks and costs to our financial system. This should be a wake-up call.”

The study makes a number of additional recommendations which include greater transparency obligations regarding high-carbon assets, undertaking carbon stress tests, investigating the fiduciary duty of pension funds and how that could limit investments into high carbon assets, setting ambitious climate and energy targets, and many others.

Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, speaking via video-link at today’s conference in Brussels, highlighted the importance of these findings. “I hope the release of this study is an occasion for everyone to come as quickly as possible to the conclusion that we have got to change the business-as-usual scenario.”

“Business-as-usual is not just a threat to the planet around us but to the economy at large. These fossil fuel corporations are rogue corporations, operating not just against the laws of nations or the EU, but also against the laws of physics — an even more severe offence. They are not only setting us up to an ecological cataclysm, which, sadly, in parts of the world is already coming true, but they are also setting us up for what is probably the greatest financial bubble of all time,” he added.

The second report released today in Sydney, Australia concludes that shares in coal, oil and gas companies increase financial risk without any additional benefit to returns.

Published by The Australia Institute and released today in partnership with 350.org Australia and Market Forces, Climate proofing your investments: Moving funds out of fossil fuels [4], claims that portfolios containing coal, oil and gas companies risk lower returns in the long run while portfolios avoiding these companies can provide competitive returns.

The report concludes that investors who divest from companies such as Whitehaven Coal, Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy need not sacrifice their investment returns.

The report also looks at the financial risk of “unburnable carbon” to shareholders of coal, oil and gas companies. According to the report, balance sheet valuations of reserves held by coal, oil and gas companies are based on the assumption they can extract over three times more carbon than is compatible with the internationally agreed two degree global warming limit.

These new reports serve to add impetus to an already growing divestment movement. Since 350.org launched the divestment campaign in the autumn of 2012 the movement has spread across the United States, Australia and Europe, with dozens of cities and institutions already committing to divest.

A recent study by the University of Oxford concluded that the fossil fuel divestment movement is growing faster than any previous divestment campaign and that, “The outcome of the stigmatisation process, which the fossil fuel divestment campaign has now triggered, poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies and the vast energy value chain.”[5]

The campaign is beginning to make an impact in the financial community, as well. Most recently 70 global investors, managing over $3 trillion of assets, have demanded the oil, gas and coal companies asses the risks that climate change poses to their business plans. Earlier this month during a summit of financial leaders held at the United Nations, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), joined the voices calling on investors to get out of high carbon assets.[6]

As heads of state are set to meet later this year in New York for the Ban Ki Moon Climate Summit, 350.org will continue to build the divestment movement catalyzing necessary global climate action.

###

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] The ‘carbon bubble’ – which refers to the overvaluation of oil, gas and coal mining companies because of the need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources – poses a growing risk to our economies. If we want to have a chance to limit global warming below 2°C and therefore avoid harmful climate change the amount of fossil fuels that can actually be burnt is limited, and the majority of fossil fuel reserves would become stranded assets.  Today private companies own about a 1/4 of fossil fuel reserves. If a large part of these reserves cannot be extracted, that reduces the valuation of these companies and their ability to repay their debt. The carbon bubble therefore poses serious risks to the financial sector given the financial institutions´ large exposures to oil, gas and coal mining companies through equity, bond, and loan portfolios.

[2] Report The Price of Doing Too Little Too Late: The impact of the carbon bubble on the EU financial system available here

[3] Conference entitled ‘Deflating the Financial Carbon Bubble’ taking place at the European Parliament. More information here

[4] Climate proofing your investments: Moving funds out of fossil fuels Link Executive Summary available here

[5] Report entitled: Stranded assets and the fossil fuel divestment campaign: what does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets?

[6] BBC World Get your cash out of fossil fuel backed funds says UN climate chief