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Fastest growing divestment movement expands to new regions increasing pressure to break ties with fossil fuel companies causing climate change.
WORLDWIDE — Thousands of people attended over 260 events in 45 countries on six continents to put pressure on institutions to break their financial ties with fossil fuel companies, during the Global Divestment Mobilisation (GDM), which ran from 5th to 13th May. The divestment movement, which has started in North America, Australia and Europe is now spreading in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
As the world’s climate advisers participate in the Bonn climate talks and senior ministers prepare for the G7 Summit in Sicily, campaigners, faith groups, academics and impacted local communities built on the fossil fuel divestment movement setting the groundwork for future divestments.
At a time when governments are failing their people, when President Trump is threatening to leave the Paris Agreement, and climate impacts are taking us into uncharted territory in terms of floods, forest fires, heatwaves, storms and drought – divestment has proven to be an effective way to undermine the power of the fossil fuel industry politically and financially.
Global commitments to divest have already reached 710 institutions across 76 countries, representing well over US$5.5 trillion in assets under management, indicating that the fossil fuel industry has no future.
During the GDM citizens and respected institutions across the world were able to enact an immediate and a much needed transformational form of climate leadership. This included the announcement from nine Catholic organizations from around the world about their decision to divest their portfolios from fossil fuels in the largest joint Catholic divestment to date. A total of 27 Catholic institutions have now divested. Meanwhile in Brazil over 3000 people participated in prayers in a vigil outside the Umuarama Cathedral, to voice their hopes for a fossil fuel free future.
Across Europe, the links between municipalities and fossil fuel companies came under scrutiny. Over 1,000 people marched in Munich, Germany and demonstrations took place across the UK including rallies at 14 Town Halls across London demanding divestment. Campaigners also put pressure on universities pension funds, faith, health and cultural institutions such as the Louvre in Paris, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the British Museum.
The battle to safeguard people and planet is linked worldwide, the money in one part of the world is linked to infrastructure projects being built elsewhere. Hundreds gathered in Jakarta to listen to community representatives from Indramayu recount the struggles they encounter living in the shadow of a coal power plant. During an event in Japan case studies of Japanese banks financing coal power plants in Indonesia and oil pipelines in the United States were highlighted to put pressure on Japanese banks to pull out of fossil fuels.
In New Zealand and Australia campaigners targeted Australian coal-giant Adani by calling on the banks that invest in it, including CommBank to stop its funding. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has suffered a large bleaching for the second year in a row. Any mining expansion would jeopardise it even further.
Meanwhile in New York 150 activists rallied inside Trump Tower, to call on New York City officials to cut their ties with the dirty oil and gas companies that control the White House. In the face of federal government climate denial and the possibility of the US leaving the Paris Agreement, demonstrating that local leaders can show impactful climate leadership, while other parts of the country are suffering from severe flooding.
Divestment also provides the means to enact a just transition by reinvesting into renewable energy systems. This was discussed at events held across Africa at universities and local communities, where the fossil fuel industry and its culpability in climate change was discussed along with clean energy solutions, in the face of some of the worst droughts the continent has ever suffered.
The future is in the reinvestment of the divested funds to support the communities most impacted by climate change and the dirty energy based economy. The divestment movement is modelling what governments need to be doing: withdrawing funds from the problem and investing in solutions.
We urgently need this transformation in the global energy system, away from the fossil fuel dependence that drives climate change, and into renewable energy solutions for all. Moving forward through 2017 and beyond, the divestment movement will continue to grow in size, strength and boldness to make this a reality.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
- People targeted cultural institutions to give up fossil fuel sponsorship including at the Louvre, Van Gogh and British Museum. Campaigners in Stockholm staged a ‘flood’ in front of the Nobel museum to urge the Nobel Foundation to divest.
- Faith groups took a moral stand and committed to divest including over a quarter of Quaker meetings in Britain, the nine Catholic institutions divested and group of 30 clergy including three Church of England bishops sent an open letter to the Church of England Pensions Board, asking them to divest from fossil fuel companies and to invest in renewable alternatives.
- Students and academics continued to lead the way with creative actions, including activities at the Universidad de San Martín, Argentina; Universidad Católica Boliviana, Bolivia; Fossil Free Stellenbosch and Fossil Free University Cape Town in South Africa; Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Nigeria. French and Flemish speaking students at six universities in Belgium released a joint open letter calling on their institutions to stop investments in fossil fuels.
- Banks felt the pressure to divest from coal plants, tar sands, pipelines and fracking. Activists took action against banks investing in coal in Japan, Indonesia, Germany, while in the UK they targeted Barclays to stop investing in fracking
- Politicians also felt the pressure with activities taking place at the Trump Tower in New York, over 50 MPs backed the call on the UK parliament’s £612m pension fund to ‘take climate change seriously’ and divest from fossil fuels. In the Netherlands, teachers, scientists and civil servants confronted the national pension fund ABP that continues to invest their pension savings in fossil fuels.
Lidy Nacpil, Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD): “Divestment has shown the world that stopping fossil fuel financing can be done and must be done. The battle to safeguard people and planet is linked worldwide, the money in one part of the world is linked to infrastructure projects being built elsewhere. Divestment is a powerful act of solidarity and justice for the world’s most vulnerable people, a defense of nature and our planet. We urgently need a transformation in the global energy system, away from the fossil fuel dependence that drives climate change, and challenge fossil fuel corporations that oppose progress in climate action and prioritize profits over people and planet. Divestment has proven to be one of the most effective ways to push for this much needed transformation.”
Bill McKibben, Author and co-founder of 350.org: “There is no question we are currently in a state of emergency on climate change. Day in day out people are dying from the effects of climate change. There are many ways to confront this emergency and divestment allows us to get in the way of the money financing the fossil fuel projects behind this crisis. The fact that the fossil fuel divestment movement has grown exponentially in the last few years is the best news ever. From the Pacific Islands to South Africa, from the United States to Germany, people are standing up and challenging the power of the fossil fuel industry.”
Hoda Baraka, 350.org Global Communications Director: “Throughout the GDM and for years leading up to it, the climate movement has shone a light on the fossil fuel industry’s lies. Exxon knew about climate change for years while publicly denying it – making this public has seriously damaged the industry’s reputation. Shell’s CEO Ben van Beurden recently voiced this publicly, stating that the public backlash against fossil fuel firms could threaten the industry’s future. The result is plain to see – institutions no longer want to be associated with it. The growing divestment movement has got the industry on the run.”
Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Founder of Lubicon Solar, Lubicon Cree First Nation in Alberta, Canada: “Not only is divestment proven to be an effective way to undermine the power of the fossil fuel industry, it also provides the means to enact a just transition by reinvesting into renewable energy systems. Our future is in the reinvestment that supports the communities most impacted by climate change and the dirty energy based economy. The divestment movement is modeling what governments need to be doing: withdrawing funds from the problem and investing in solution. That’s the best way to ensure a brighter future for both people and planet.”
Kumi Naidoo, Director of The African Civil Society Centre: “Communities across the globe are taking the power back through divestment. They are divesting from fossil fuels and sending a loud message to politicians and corporates alike: the end of fossil fuels is happening; achieving 100% renewable energy for all is inevitable. Those betting on a future based on fossil fuels will continue to lose, citizens globally are demanding a just transition to a green future.”
PHOTO AND VIDEO:
Video footage available here.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
You will find additional information including answers to frequently asked questions and media contacts for each of the actions in the GDM media pack.
Detailed overview of divestment commitments to date can be found here.
Hoda Baraka, Global Communications Director 350.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, +20-1001840990