April 11, 2014

Latest UN Report Calls for Massive Reduction in Fossil Fuel Investments

Momentum on fossil fuel divestment grows as Harvard professors, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and IPCC call for action

Berlin, Germany — The latest UN climate report will project that annual investment in fossil fuels will decline about $30 billion a year while investment in low carbon technologies will rise by roughly $147 billion, according to leaked drafts.

The report adds momentum to the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, which is pushing institutions to shift their investments away from coal, oil and gas companies and into a more equitable and sustainable energy economy.

“This report clearly states that we need massive divestment from the fossil fuel industry and investment in climate solutions,” said Jamie Henn, 350.org Strategy and Communications Director. “Universities, pension funds, and other large investors have a responsibility to help in this transition. Investing in coal, oil and gas is antithetical to climate progress.”

Earlier this week, over 100 Harvard professors called on the University to divest its $32 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry. On Thursday, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called for an anti-apartheid-style boycott and disinvestment campaign against the fossil fuel industry, writing in the Guardian, “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.”

Divestment advocates are looking forward to this Saturday, when another college will announce that it is divesting from fossil fuels, as well. So far nine colleges, over 20 cities, numerous religious institutions, and a group of 17 foundations representing roughly $1.8 billion in assets have committed to some form of divestment.

350.org European Divestment Coordinator Tim Ratcliffe said, “Investors now have scientific evidence that if you put your money into fossil fuels you are complicit in wrecking our future. We know that 80% of fossil fuels need to stay underground in order to avoid a climate catastrophe. The fossil fuel industry however is spending billions every year to find yet new reserves, spread misinformation about climate change, corrupt political progress and block clean energy solutions. ExxonMobil, for example, recently spelled out that they are determined to burn through all the carbon they have and can get hold of.”

“We have the solutions to make the shift from fossil fuels to renewables. But we need to stop pumping money into a rogue industry that is determined to maximize its profits at any cost. We need to invest in clean energy solutions now,” Ratcliffe added.

Those solutions should not include geoengineering, nuclear, and other “false-solutions” that impact poor and vulnerable communities. With clean, just, and renewable energy sources so readily available, getting lost in a discussion about last-ditch technologies to save the planet is a dangerous distraction.

350.org’s fossil fuel divestment campaign pushes public institutions to phase out any direct or indirect investments in fossil fuels. The movement has spread to over 500 universities, cities, states and religious institutions across the United States, Australia, Canada and Europe, with dozens of institutions already committing to divest.

The campaign is also helping drive forward a discussion about the need to massively shift investments away from fossil fuels and into more equitable and sustainable energy economy. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, President Obama, and other influential leaders have called on institutions to change their practices. 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.

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.”

Another study published this month by the Aperio Group, the fifth study of its kind, shows that if investors had divested of fossil fuels 20 and 30 years ago, they would have had slightly higher returns within the global and US markets.

The latest IPCC report focusing on mitigation is the third and final in a series. It follows a report about climate change impacts on society issued in Japan last month, and a report on the physical impacts of climate change that was released in September 2013.

The IPCC reports come in the run-up to the UN climate summit, which will take place in New York in September, where world leaders must lay the groundwork for a strong global climate treaty due in 2015.