Jonathon Porritt, one of the UK’s most respected environmental leaders, has publicly announced the end of  decade long corporate partnerships between his Forum for the Future institute and both Shell and BP.    He believes it is impossible for today’s oil and gas majors to adapt in “a timely and intelligent way to the imperative of radical decarbonisation.”

These are companies whose senior managers know, as an irrefutable fact, that their current business model threatens both the stability of the global economy and the longer-term prospects of humankind as a whole.”  Jonathon Porritt writing in the Guardian today.

The news comes just days after the science journal Nature published new evidence confirming what we already knew – that the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves are unburnable if we want to prevent a climate crisis.

Porritt’s very public renunciation of fossil fuel companies and their motives is warmly welcomed by the divestment movement.  It shows a level of humility and common sense that  throws the gauntlet down for other institutions, particularly the Church of England, who are still holding out against demands for divestment.

Our approach is to get stuck in on ethical issues and try and have a positive influence,” said Church Commissioner Edward Mason in December.

The Church of England still has its billions invested in companies like Shell and BP and believes, utterly naïvely, that ‘shareholder engagement‘ will stop them from digging up ever more fossil fuels for profit.   But Porritt said that the time for believing in engagement had now passed and that the unburnable carbon analysis has left the fossil fuel companies “entirely unmoved”.

He continues with a brilliant takedown of the “engagement is better than divestment” argument so often touted by the targets of Fossil Free divestment campaigns. It seems Porritt agrees that fossil fuels are history:

 “It has been quite a painful journey for me personally. I so badly wanted to believe that the combination of reason, rigorous science and good people would enable elegant transition strategies to emerge in those companies.  But we learn as we go. And go those companies surely will, if not in the near future.”

Let’s hope Forum for the Future is the first of many to seize the opportunity presented by Global Divestment Day on 13 & 14 February to publicly cut ties with this destructive industry once and for all!

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