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September 21, 2016

New Paris climate agreement ratifications reaffirm necessity to divest and break free from fossil fuels

As world governments meet at the UN with new ratifications taking place today, Amalgamated Bank becomes first in the US to commit to divesting from climate risk

NEW YORK, NY — With 31 additional countries ratifying the Paris agreement during the UN Paris Climate Change Agreement Ratification Ceremony today, the imminent implementation of this historic treaty reaffirms the necessity for institutions, governments and individuals to divest and break free from fossil fuels.

“The historic pace at which countries are joining the Paris agreement brings it significantly closer to entering into force, yet there remains a massive gap between what the agreement calls for and what world governments are actually doing to meet these targets,” said May Boeve, 350.org Executive Director. “Each of the last 16 consecutive months have been the hottest in history, with 2016 shaping up to be the hottest year on record — a title that we’re getting far too accustomed to applying year after year. Around the world, there is a powerful and growing fossil fuel resistance movement that is pushing our institutions and governments to divest and break free from fossil fuels to prioritize people and planet.”

Since its inception in 2012, the movement for divesting from fossil fuels as a moral statement for climate justice has spread to universities, local governments, pension funds, faith groups and more. Currently more than 550 institutions have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment, representing more than $3.4 trillion in assets under management. Recent notable commitments to divest from coal, oil and gas include the city of Stuttgart, in Germany, the University of Massachusetts Foundation, and the city of Sydney, Australia.

This week has seen the first announcement of a U.S. bank committing to remove its investments from fossil fuels. Amalgamated Bank, the largest majority union-owned bank in the country, announced that it is committed to divesting its $4 billion in assets from climate risk, widening its definition of divestment to include evaluating lending and financing practices based on climate risk.

“Amalgamated Bank’s decision to reinvest in an economy that prioritizes people and planet will reverberate around the world. The financial sector has the ability, not to mention a massive responsibility, when it comes to shifting our society away from the dangerous fossil fuel economy — other banks would be wise to follow their lead,” added Boeve.

Many universities and pension funds previously argued that they could not divest from fossil fuels due to their responsibility as a fiduciary. During today’s forum, hosted by the Center for International Environmental, Mercer Consulting, and the Divest-Invest Network, previewed a new forthcoming report confirming that this is no longer the case. Eminent legal scholars from the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, including former SEC Commissioner Bevis Longstreth, will deliver the third strike against the fossil fuel industry, arguing that it is an institutions’ fiduciary duty to divest from fossil fuels.

In the coming year, organizers in the U.S. plan to ramp up divestment campaigns on iconic targets such as the New York City and New York state pension funds, as well as prominent cultural institutions, such as museums of science and natural history.

“Fiduciary duty is no longer an argument against divestment,” highlighted Yossi Cadan, 350.org Global Senior Divestment Campaigner. “While many universities and pension funds in the past argued that this was a reason not to divest from fossil fuels, the high fluctuations in the fossil fuel markets and the exposure to worsening climate change impacts are making these investments riskier and more costly day by day. Today the truly responsible decision is to divest from fossil fuels.”

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September 12, 2016 350.org statement on Brazil formally ratifying Paris Agreement
September 5, 2016 350 Africa responds to the suspension of the Lamu Coal Plant in Kenya
September 2, 2016 350.org statement on US-China formally joining Paris Agreement
August 31, 2016 350.org Responds to Lamar Smith announcing hearing to defend Exxon’s climate lies

 

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