January 31, 2014

New Commitments and Endorsements Buoy Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign

PRESS RELEASE for immediate release
January 31, 2014
CONTACT: Aaron Pickus, [email protected], 425-418-7606
OAKLAND, CA — The announcement that a group of foundation’s representing nearly $2 billion in assets will be divesting from fossil fuels, and recent endorsements from World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and UN Climate Secretary Christiana Figueres, are adding an early 2014 jolt of energy to the growing fossil fuel divestment campaign.


“It has taken fossil fuel companies almost two hundred years to damage our climate but only one year for fossil fuel divestment to grow from an idea to a mass movement,” said Jay Carmona, 350.org National Divestment Organizer. “The endorsement of major philanthropic organizations, the United Nations and the World Bank gives an incredible boost to our student and community leaders. We look forward to working with dozens of cities, pension boards, elected leaders, universities and religious institutions to stop the morally and financially bankrupt practice of profiting from climate change.”


A new coalition of more than a dozen U.S. and international foundations with an asset base of nearly $2 billion announced yesterday it will divest from fossil-fuel companies and invest in the clean energy economy. It called on other foundations to join the initiative. The Divest-Invest Philanthropy coalition includes foundations such as The John Merck Fund, Park Foundation Inc. and the Russell Family Foundation in the United States; and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust abroad.[1]


“The move is a victory for a developing divestiture campaign that has found success largely among small colleges and environmentally conscious cities,” reported The New York Times, yesterday.[2]


Earlier this month, as the world’s political, business, and financial elite met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, in his speech A Climate Call to Action: Make 2014 the Turning Point touched on the carbon bubble and portfolio risk.“Through policy reforms, we can divest and tax that which we don’t want, the carbon that threatens development gains over the last 20 years,” said Kim, “Financial regulators need to lead, as well. Sooner rather than later, they must address the systemic risk associated with carbon-intensive activities in their economies, made clear, of course, by price signals. Start now by enforcing disclosure of climate risk and requiring companies and financial institutions to access their exposure to climate-related impacts.”


He continued, “the so-called ‘long-term investors’ must recognize their fiduciary responsibility to future pension holders who will be affected by decisions made today. Corporate leaders should not wait to act until market signals are right and national investment policies are in place.”
Other important developments include 70 global investors, managing over $3 trillion of assets, have recently demanded the oil, gas and coal companies asses the risks that climate change poses to their business plans. While earlier this month during a summit of financial leaders held at the United Nations, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), called on investors to get out of high-carbon assets.


“The continued and dangerous rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is in large part the direct result of past investments in energy and mobility systems based on the use of fossil fuels,” Ms Figueres told an audience of investors and corporate leaders in New York with more than $20 trillion in combined assets. “New investments must now assist in reversing this unsustainable trend, and quickly if the world is to have a chance of staying under a 2C temperature rise,” she said. [3]


Incredible progress was also made in September 2013 with the Board of Directors of the $260 billion California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest public pension fund in the United States, voting to include references to climate change in its newly adopted list of investment beliefs. This small but significant change in wording will pave the way for CalPERS to analyze and quantify the risks to its portfolio of climate change in general and of fossil-fuel investment in particular. The significance of a fund the size of CalPERS taking this step cannot be overstated.


“Hundreds of student leaders are heading back to campus this spring with a huge shift of momentum in the divestment debate with their campus decision-makers,” said Jenny Marienau, 350.org U.S. Field Organizer. “These recent commitments and endorsements should make it impossible for administrations to deny the argument for divestment. But if they do, we will spotlight their inexcusable inaction and continue to grow our movement in numbers and commitment!”


[1] A full list of Foundations and more can be found at www.divestinvest.org/philanthropy.

[2] New York Times Foundations Band Together to Get Rid of Fossil-Fuel Investments

[3] BBC World Get your cash out of fossil fuel backed funds says UN climate chief

[4] More information and data on the movement to divest from fossil fuel companies can be found at https://www.gofossilfree.com.