350 Campaign Update: Divestment

The Go Fossil Free divestment campaign continues to be one of our key strategies to systematically challenge the political power of the fossil fuel industry, create uncertainty about the long-term financial viability of the industry, and move money away from dirty energy towards climate solutions. Since its inception in 2012, 350 institutions and local governments alongside thousands of individuals representing over $1.5 trillion in assets have pledged to divest from fossil fuels. High-profile pledges to divest include Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, the Episcopal church, the Church of England, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, World Council of Churches, the California Academy of Sciences, the British Medical Association, and Newcastle, Australia, home of the world’s largest coal port. There are now active campaigns underway at over 450 universities and hundreds more cities, foundations, churches and other institutions around the world.

The divestment effort is clearly making an impact. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is tweeting about divestment and connecting it to climate finance, and the finance community has noted divestment is a major trend to watch. Even the fossil fuel industry is noting our success: Peabody Energy mentioned the campaign as a reason for declining profits in their SEC filing last year, and we are beginning to see PR campaigns and front groups take us on (including a particularly cute video from the oil industry responding to last February’s Global Divestment Day). Unions are pushing pension funds to divest. London’s government is pushing its pension fund to divest. California Senator Kevin DeLeon is pushing divestment legislation that is likely to divest two of the largest pension funds in the country. Even leading health experts are calling for divestment.

Over the coming year, we will take our campaign to the next level in both high-visibility campaigning and in strengthening the movement of existing divestment campaigns. This Fall, we’ll be creating shareable resources like web trainings and toolkits, holding distributed trainings, and hopefully hiring additional support to better support individual campus and municipal campaigns. We’ll focus particularly on schools in the Southeast and Midwest and schools near key extraction and infrastructure fights, while continuing to build momentum at schools that demonstrated with sit-ins and occupations last Spring.

We’ll turbocharge the movement on campuses this fall and prepare for spring escalations that will launch early next semester. We are building a skilled and self-sustaining base of trained students so that we can focus our energy on supporting actions and key movement moments that push all campaigns forward. We’re fostering student skill-building and leadership development to grow movement leaders for the long term by running dozens of training events and connecting student leaders with other campus and community groups.

Our Fossil Free Fellowship just wrapped up its third summer by training 26 students in hands-on organizing to prepare them for the fall semester. Fellows in 2013 went on to plan and coordinate the massive civil disobedience in DC called XL Dissent, and many graduates are now running the independent Divestment Student Network. Fellows from the 2014 class have built exceptional regional networks, planned sit-ins and escalations last Spring, are leading the development of a Reinvest in Just transition campaign, and recruited over 60,000 youth to People’s Climate March. We will likely run the fellowship again next summer with a new focus on setting fellows up to train their peers in campaign strategy, action-planning, and organizing skills.

In addition to campus campaigns, we will continue to push the Vatican and the Gates Foundation to divest, and we will add more high-profile campaign targets (although we can’t reveal our targets to you just yet), and we will also push certain sectors, such as museums and faith organizations, to divest. We’ll back up some of our high-profile pushes with research demonstrating the financial mandate to divest, similar to the recent report demonstrating that California Pension Funds had lost over $5.2 Billion in fossil fuel investment losses in just the last year.

Our team will also continue to support the strong campaigns in the UK, Norway, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia, and more. For example, we are pressuring South African banks to divest, since the four main banks are all heavily invested in fossil fuel projects throughout Africa. Our team in East Asia has started organizing and mobilizing allies and partners to prepare for a full-blown divestment campaign in Japan that will launch in early 2016 to pressure coal funding banks to divest from coal and pressure universities and public institutional investors to divest. We are pushing France to divest its public pension fund in advance of the UN climate talks in Paris at the end of the year, and the city of Paris is already strongly considering divestment. We will continue supporting and developing local campaigns across the UK, particularly focused on local government, through the Fossil Free Network, concerted outreach to establish new groups, and ongoing support including tools, such as the pension data tool, and by coordinating divestment days. This article will get very long if I tell you all we have planned, but suffice it to say we are going after the best targets in each country.

The fossil fuel divestment campaign is signaling to investors and politicians that the “end is near” for coal and other fossil fuels, and it is leveling the playing field for the growth of renewable energy that can transform our economy and provide real climate solutions. These campaigns, along with our communications work to spread the narrative of keeping the carbon in the ground is challenging the fossil fuel industry and pressuring politicians to take action on climate change.

Thank you for your partnership to help make this happen!