As spring warms up, people around the world have been turning up the heat on divestment. Direct action on campuses reached a boiling point in April, with divestment sit-ins, protests, and rallies sweeping across colleges and universities in the UK, Australia and the United States. We’ve also gained ground with some big names — everyone from the World Bank, HSBC, Edward Norton, and Prince Charles are hopping on the divestment train!
Our movement is steaming ahead, scrappy but gaining. Big players — from banks to the oil and gas companies themselves, from celebrities to major development agencies — are starting to see the writing on the wall. And with climate negotiations in Paris right around the corner, it’s up to us to keep the pressure on.
For now, read on for a few of April’s biggest victories from across the global divestment movement!
GLOBAL CAMPUS UPDATES
Australia: A nation-wide day of action
On April 22nd, Aussies at 15 university campuses took action to call on their schools to stop investing in fossil fuels as part of the National Day of Campus Divestment Action. Down under, folks got creative with events including everything from petition blitzes, supporter scavenger hunts, fossil free festivals, marches, rallies, human signs — and there was even a security lock-down at one university’s administration building. Students, staff and alumni are calling loudly for change — and university decision-makers are really starting to feel the pressure. Read more here and check out the best photos from the day here.
USA: Action explodes across the country
“Everywhere you look, divestment sit-ins, protests, and rallies are sweeping across campuses.” – Jamie Henn
Young people at schools across the United States continued the wave of escalated, nonviolent direct action that kicked off last month — and wow, was it incredible! The climate crisis leaves no room for neutrality. So, they told their administrators it’s time to pick a side: the people or the polluters.
During Harvard Heat Week, over 1,600 people came together in Cambridge to call on Harvard University to divest, and the crew shut down an administration building for the whole week. Check out some of the highlights on the wrap-up page.
Swarthmore College ended their 32-day sit-in, and the Board finally agreed to discuss divestment. Although they voted to continue investing in fossil fuels, the fight for Swarthmore’s divestment (where this movement was born) is far from over. Read this statement from Swarthmore Mountain Justice for more info.
Students’ brave action also led to some arrests. On April 9th, 48 students launched a sit in at Yale University to demand their administration divest from fossil fuels, and 19 were arrested for refusing to leave the building. Then, at the University of Mary Washington where folks had been sitting in for 21 days, police evicted 30 people and arrested three of them — click here to watch the video recap.
But the action didn’t end there! 70 students sat in at Tulane, 270 at Whitman, 33 at Tufts, 37 at Wesleyan, and 28 at Bowdoin. At CU Boulder, students held a 3-day occupation. Students at UC Berkeley slept outside of an administration building and held a community rally. UMass Amherst joined the action too, and so did lots of other noble people across the country!
Check out a few of the best photos from the action here.
UK: SOAS, University of London divests
On April 24th, SOAS announced that it will divest from fossil fuels within the next three years to show leadership in the fight against climate change. It’s the first university in London to divest and the first to extend an exclusion on fossil fuel companies to its donations policy. This big win comes after an 18-month campaign, with the support of over 1,000 students and staff. Read more here.
GLOBAL COMMUNITY UPDATES
South Africa: Nedbank takes a baby step and Fossil Free Africa campaign claims its first win!
Fossil fuel divestment campaigners are celebrating the news that Nedbank intends to divest from the coal-fired Kelvin Power Station near Johannesburg. The bank has been the target of the Fossil Free Africa campaign, calling on South African banks to disclose their fossil fuel investments and ultimately stop investing in future coal and oil projects. Nedbank’s decision is a baby step, but it’s an important one. Now, it’s time for the rest of South Africa’s banks to wake up! Read more here.
Norway: Taking on the world’s largest national fund
This month saw the launch of the #DivestNorway campaign, asking Norway’s Global Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels, starting with companies mining and burning coal. Here’s why it’s such a big deal: if Norway divested even the 1.3% that its Global Pension Fund it has invested in coal, it would be the biggest divestment EVER. There’s a real chance they might.
So let’s put some international pressure on Norway to lead the way! People have been sending in personal messages from numerous frontline communities affected by Norway’s coal investments all around the world. Take action and read more here.
UK: Church of England divests from the dirtiest of the dirty
The Church of England announced that it will divest its £9bn fund of £12m in thermal coal and tar sands company holdings because of a “moral responsibility to speak and act on both environmental stewardship and justice for the world’s poor who are most vulnerable to climate change”.
This is a great first step in the right direction and a big win for the UK divestment campaign spearheaded by Operation Noah – a big shout out to all UK faith campaigners!
Bill McKibben put it well: “This is the first great turnaround in the divestment fight, an institution which initially refused to move and then, in good Christian fashion, saw the light”. Read more here.
New Zealand: Dunedin City Council divests!
On April 27th, the Dunedin City Council voted to divest its $82.5 million Waipori fund from fossil fuels. This is a huge win for New Zealand and sends a strong message to the industry that fossil fuels on their way out. Read more here.
BONUS: A brand new Fossil Free Japan campaign in the works…
Japan has an energy problem. 43 new coal plants are on the drawing board as power companies try to hold on to their centralized monopoly on power generation and distribution, while nuclear plants are moth-balled for re-start. Amidst the absurdity, people are standing up against coal and nuclear by pushing for a mass scale-up of renewable energy and launching a Fossil Free Japan campaign in Tokyo in the lead up to Paris. They’ll call on pension funds, public investment funds, universities, banks, and the Tokyo Olympics to divest from fossil fuels. This will be no small order but they’re hiring a Communications Specialist and Researcher to help mobilize for the campaign. Stay tuned for updates from Tokyo! Read more about Japan’s energy problem here.
That’s a wrap, folks! Until next time…