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

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

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

The Fossil Free campaign wants institutions and individuals to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies, and divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years. 200 publicly-traded companies hold the vast majority of listed coal, oil and gas reserves. Those are the companies we’re asking our institutions to divest from.

The business plan of the fossil fuel industry is in no way compatible with a safe climate. The industry has the biggest responsibility for causing climate change. Just 90 companies account for two-thirds of man-made emissions.

We can hardly burn any more fossil fuels to keep global warming below the limit of 1.5℃, which governments set through the Paris climate agreement. Unless coal, oil and gas production currently in operation is retired early, emissions from existing projects will push global temperature rise past 2℃. That means we cannot open any new fossil fuel projects and need to phase out existing ones.

Even though, the coal, oil and gas already in their reserves is way more than we can burn (fossil fuel companies have at least 14 times more carbon in their reserves than we can burn to stay below 1.5C), the industry continues to spend billions every year to find and develop yet more fossil fuels. They are determined to extract and burn as much coal, oil and gas as they possibly can, willingly causing planetary disaster.

Fossil fuel companies have become the most profitable and powerful corporations in history by trampling on human rights and wrecking our planet. Determined to maximise their profits at any cost, the fossil fuel industry is a perfect example of corporate power dictating policies against the public interest. They have successfully used their financial might and political influence to deceive the public on climate change and lobby against action on climate change.

Over three decades, the world’s largest fossil fuel companies – BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Peabody Energy – spent tens of millions to willfully deceive the public on climate change, while they were fully aware of its reality. In fact, major oil and gas companies like ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron knew everything there was to know about climate change as far back as the 1970s, when it wasn’t yet public knowledge. Instead of heeding the warnings of their own scientists, their executives turned to the PR department, orchestrating a decades-long campaign of deception and denial.

Their campaign to undermine efforts to address climate change continues today, even though most of these companies publicly acknowledge human-caused climate change. Instead of ushering in the unstoppable transition to renewable energy, to this day Exxon is still pouring resources into funding climate denial front groups and politicians, subpoenaing environmental groups like 350.org, and blocking climate action at every level.

Our public institutions need to take a stand and break their financial ties to this reckless industry.

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

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

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

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

While divestment is primarily a moral and political tactic, it can also have certain economic impacts, for example by changing market norms and helping to bring about restrictive legislation.

To date almost 700 institutions across the globe representing funds worth over $5 trillion have made some form of divestment commitment. They include universities, faith and medical institutions, cities such as Seattle, Melbourne and Berlin, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune, as well as big financial players such as Norway’s sovereign wealth fund.

The first Fossil Free campaigns in Europe kicked off in autumn 2013. Since then, over 250 campaigns are underway in the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Finland and other countries.

The capital cities of France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Denmark have all pledged publicly to stop investing in fossil fuels. Over a quarter of universities in the UK have committed to divest. There are over 160 divestment commitments from Europe so far. See: Is divestment working?

The divestment movement enjoys endorsement from high-level figures such as Former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and Nobel Peace Prize winner archbishop Desmond Tutu.

We’re all complicit in fossil fuel consumption, and we should do all that we can to reduce our own use, but the real culprits – the ones who are rigging the system – are the fossil fuel companies. The largest 200 coal, gas and oil companies own oil, gas and coal reserves that represent a significant percentage of the entire global market. These companies, incidentally, are also among the largest contributors to politicians’ of all stripes across the world — they’re the ones writing laws, and getting billions in government handouts each year. They skew the market in their favour, limiting the scope that climate-friendly lifestyle choices can have within the existing system.

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

Top 5 Coal companies

  1. Coal India
  2. Adani Enterprises
  3. China Shenhua Energy
  4. Inner Mongolia Yitai Coal
  5. China Coal Energy

Top 5 Oil and Gas companies

  1. Gazprom
  2. Rosneft
  3. PetroChina
  4. ExxonMobil
  5. Lukoil

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

There are various reasons for this risk such as climate legislation, environmental challenges, changing resource landscapes, falling renewable energy costs, evolving social norms and consumer behaviour, litigation and changing statutory interpretations.

We already see fossil fuel companies struggling with major coal companies declaring bankruptcy and big oil companies hitting record low profits.

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

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

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

If we had started this campaign 30 years ago, then shareholder action would make more sense, but with the rapidly closing window for action, we need to act swiftly and boldly. Divestment will make a far greater impact than any shareholder resolution we could ever pass.
Also see: http://gofossilfree.org/uk/why-not-engage/

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

There are various reasons for this risk such as climate legislation, environmental challenges, changing resource landscapes, falling renewable energy costs, evolving social norms and consumer behaviour, litigation and changing statutory interpretations.

We already see fossil fuel companies struggling with major coal companies declaring bankruptcy and big oil companies hitting record low profits.

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

Institutions need to align their investments with their values. Instead of fueling climate change, public institutions should support a just transition to a regenerative economy rooted in social and ecological justice. See: gofossilfree.org/reinvestment/  

The Fossil Free campaign is driven from the ground up by thousands of grassroots groups that call on their affiliated institutions to divest from fossil fuels. It is coordinated by climate action group 350.org with various partners leading on different national campaigns.

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