The Nobel Peace Prize was created by the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel and has been awarded nearly every year since 1901 to those who have ”done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”. Its essence is to celebrate humanity’s struggle to make the world a better place and one would expect the Nobel Awards institution itself to be complicit in this mission.
When this years Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) the Norwegian organisation Framtiden i våre hender revealed some shocking news: the Nobel Foundation itself was investing in companies manufacturing nuclear weapons. Realising their tricky situation Nobel swiftly announced plans to divest from nuclear weapons, reducing the gap between the true meaning of the Peace Prize and the financial operations of the organisation that presents it.
It’s a strength to adjust one’s actions to match one’s ideals and the Foundation deserves credit for that – but nuclear weapons aren’t the only existential threat humanity is up against.
The last three years will likely be the warmest on record – accelerating global warming is causing extreme weather that impact people’s livelihoods in the most vulnerable communities around the world. The climate crisis is happening now and it is hurting the people that have done the least to cause it.
Every country in the world, except Trump’s USA, has signed the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change pledging to reduce emissions but emissions are still rising. One reason for this is that the fossil fuel industry is not only defending its coal, oil and gas assets, they are fighting to expand and build even more polluting infrastructure.
They won’t stop by themselves, we need to make them.
The Nobel Foundation can be really important in this fight by pushing for a fossil free and 100% renewable future. If the Nobel Foundation divests from fossil fuels it will be a strong signal and a wake-up call for people and institutions around the world, not because of the amount of money involved, but due to the global respect for the Foundation and its prizes. So it is high time the Foundation builds on it move to cut financial ties with nuclear weapons by ditching the fossil fuel industry.
Because right now, they are not living up to the high standards demanded of their prize winners: in Nobel’s finance portfolio there are companies including the notorious coal mine owners RWE, oil giants BP, and Lundin Petroleum who are currently under investigation for crimes against human rights. To invest in these kinds of companies means accepting a destructive business that undermines all efforts to tackle climate change and limit its impacts.
As it’s written in Alfred Nobel’s last will, the returns of the Nobel Foundation’s investments should be used “for the greatest benefit of mankind” and I think it’s time that the investment policy should be governed in this same spirit. I want to see the global impact of the Nobel Foundation used to open the door for positive change. I am calling on them to divest from fossil fuels. Already 20 Nobel laureates and over 2000 others have joined our call.
When the Foundation divested from nuclear weapons its reputation became stronger, and the Nobel Prize medals will shine stronger when they are not obscured by investments in coal, oil and gas.