Global fossil fuel divestment and clean energy investment movement passes $11tn milestone

By Agencies
September 9, 2019

The global movement to divest from fossil fuel companies and invest in climate solutions announces a major milestone today (9 September 2019), as the total assets pledged to divestment passed US$11 trillion. Campaigners marked this milestone with the release of a new report, $11T and counting: new goals for a fossil-free world. The rapidly accelerating pace of divestment commitments is striking: while it took two years to shift the first US$2 trillion, the most recent US$2 trillion has taken just under six months.

The release of the report coincides with the start of Financing the Future, a global divest-invest summit being held in Cape Town on 10 -11 September. (2) With over 300 delegates from 44 countries in attendance, the conference is designed to build power among divest-invest advocates on every continent, working to accelerate the flow of capital out of the fossil fuel industry, and into a 100 per cent renewable energy future, with a particular focus on ensuring energy access for the 850 million people globally who lack access to electricity..

The summit’s location in Cape Town, a hotbed of divestment campaigning during the apartheid era, underscores the parallels between the movement for climate justice and ongoing campaigns for social, racial and gender justice. While drawing strength from the success of the people-powered movement for divestment, summit organisers were quick to condemn the recent spate of xenophobic and gender-based violence in South Africa, and emphasise the need for thoughtful leadership in the fight for justice.

“The struggle for climate justice is a struggle for fundamental human rights. Every person facing deeper levels of drought, stronger hurricanes or conflict has been wronged by these fossil fuel companies. Their rights to health, water, food, housing, and even life have been harmed, which is why Amnesty International has decided to divest from fossil fuel companies. This ensures that human rights and working towards clean renewable energy for all is at the forefront of the climate justice conversation,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International, speaking at the conference launch.

A key sector of the divest-invest movement, and of the summit, is the longstanding and continuing leadership of faith communities. Today, 22 more faith institutions announce their divestment from fossil fuels, joining the global total of 170+ faith-based organisations which have stepped away from dirty energy.

“Millions of people are confronting the rising hunger, sickness, and conflict that comes with a warming world, and faith institutions are responding with the clarity this crisis demands. We're divesting from fossil fuels, proving that greed will never triumph over love,” said Tomás Insua, Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

While mission-based investors such as faith groups, foundations, schools and health care organisations continue to lead in terms of net commitments to divest-invest, the bulk of assets pledged now comes from institutional investors like global asset managers, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies and public pension funds. Divestment, once strictly a moral call to action, is now also seen as the only prudent financial response to climate risk: The fossil fuel industry has been lagging the market for over a decade now, finishing dead last in the S&P rankings in 2018. The sector is underperforming, volatile, and exposed to multiple transition risks, presenting a decidedly poor bet for investors.

“Institutional investors literally have the power to make or break the future. As the divestment movement gains ground, we are seeing a clear shift away from fossil fuel investments in every sector, and on every continent. Coal, oil, and gas assets are being recognised as toxic – not just morally due to the climate crisis but also increasingly financially”, said Clara Vondrich, Director of Divest-Invest, organising partners for Financing the Future, “We are calling on the shareholder community to make this clear to the fossil fuel industry: they must either share definite plans to phase out, or face divestment.”

Assets committed to divestment have leapt from $52 billion in 2014 to more than $11 trillion today – a stunning increase of 22,000 per cent. Over 1110 institutions have now committed to policies black-listing coal, oil and gas. These include sovereign wealth funds, banks, global asset managers and insurance companies, cities, pension funds, health care organisations, universities, faith groups and foundations. Highlights include institutions as diverse as Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the British Medical Association, Amundi Asset Management, Caisse des Dépôts (the French public financial institution), New York City, the City of Cape Town, KfW Group (Germany’s development bank), Stockholm University, the Tate museums in the UK and Allianz insurance, and St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh – the first cathedral in the world to divest.

“These numbers are strong indicators that people power is winning. We would not have smashed our divestment targets without the thousands of local groups who have pressured their representatives to pull out of fossil fuels,” said Ahmed Mokgopo, Divestment campaigner for 350.org, “Working together at this summit, the first of its kind in the global south, we will identify the tools we need to change the choices made by financial institutions, and exchange resources that will help us align capital with climate goals.”

* More about Financing the Future here

* Read the report $11T and counting: new goals for a fossil-free world here

 [Ekk/4]

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