The Growing Divestment Movement

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The moral obligation and economic rationale for divesting from carbon are growing stronger and the imperative for change is growing in many sectors. This blog already featured an entry on the movement, coordinated by 360.org among Universities in Canada and overseas. 360.org is also taking their campaign to the foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. They are collecting signatures, asking these two foundations to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies within five years and to immediately freeze any new investment in the same companies. On April 3, 2015, the campaign had over 171,000 signatures.

Religious institutions too, are reconsidering their investments in fossil fuels. The Church of England is currently debating whether to dump fossil fuels from its £6.1bn fund, spurred by a group of 17 bishops representing the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, a body that promotes environmental concerns within the 85 million-strong Anglican Communion. Former Archbishop Desmund Tutu has also called for divestment, likening the action required on climate change to that which was required during the anti-apartheid movement. “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change,” he has said.

Cities are among those involved in the growing divestment movement too. Oslo city council recently decided to divest its municipal pension fund from all coal equities, following the lead of Seattle where last year the mayor committed the city to a complete divestment from fossil fuels. Minneapolis, Washington D.C. and New York also have active campaigns and are said to be making progress toward divestment. The City of Vancouver is considering it.

In this article, The Guardian’s Editor in Chief, Alan Rusbridger, articulates the moral imperative to divest from industries that are directly contributing to the climate crisis. His arguments are familiar, related to the short-sightedness of private companies and the profit motive that obscures concern for future generations. But, he goes a step further, urging pragmatic investors to think rationally about dropping their fossil fuel investments before the bottom falls out of the market. He suggests that the physical limitations of our environment will mean that fossil fuel extraction will have to stop at some point and that when it does, remaining investments in fossil fuels will be stranded assets.