A year ago, Roskilde became the first Danish municipality to commit to divestment. However, a democratic decision in the city council was not enough to ensure divestment from fossil fuel companies. The banks in Denmark simply refused to offer investment funds that excluded fossil fuel companies which obstructed Roskilde’s implementation of its divestment policy.
After a year of constant pressure from the Danish divestment campaign and Danish municipalities, the banks in Denmark have finally given in. Roskilde and other Danish municipalities can avoid supporting the coal, oil, and gas industry by investing in the new fossil free investment funds now offered by some Danish banks.
The new fossil-free investment funds
Some of the most influential banks in Denmark now offer fossil free investment funds, including “Danske Bank” and “Jyske Bank”. The new fossil-free investment funds abide by the criteria set by Copenhagen municipality.
Thus, companies involved in exploration, extraction, and refining of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) as well as companies delivering equipment and services to, for example, the offshore oil industry, are excluded if 5% or more of their turnover comes from fossil fuels. In addition, utility companies are excluded if more than 50% of their production capacity comes from coal.
The investment director of Jyske Invest, Jens Chrisian Thellesen, informed Ritzau (a Danish News Agency) that Jyske Invest expects that over time the return will not be affected negatively by the exclusion of fossil fuels.
How we succeeded
I will highlight four aspects of our campaign that led to the success.
- Firstly, we contacted all 98 Danish municipalities regarding their investments in fossil fuels. This led to raised awareness of the divestment campaign among all the municipalities. As a result, several municipalities contacted their investment fund manager and expressed a demand for fossil-free investment options.
- Secondly, we focused much of our energy on some of the major municipalities. Obviously, Copenhagen’s decision to divest put immense pressure on the investment fund managers.
- Thirdly, we managed to catch the media attention which put pressure on the banks through the Danish media.
- Lastly, we contacted the banks in Denmark. We met with those interested and discussed options for fossil free investment funds.
Prospects for the Danish divestment campaign
Currently six municipalities have decided to divest from coal, oil and gas: Copenhagen, Roskilde, Fredericia, Stevns, Frederikssund and Fredensborg. In addition, Odense, the third largest city in Denmark, and Svendborg has committed to divestment from coal and tar sands. We continue to campaign for full divestment in these two municipalities.
Municipalities have a responsibility towards their citizens to manage the money they are entrusted with responsibly and in the public interest. Investments in fossil fuels do not align well with the climate policies of the Danish municipalities and are not in the public interest. Fossil fuels belong to the past – not the future.
Now, that we have solved the great obstacle of the banks’ lack of willingness to offer fossil-free investment funds, we expect that the number of Danish municipalities – and possibly also unions and universities – committed to divestment will increase immensely over the next year of campaigning. We are going to stop investing in the past and start investing in the future.