The Decarbonizer and the Moral Case for Divestment

We recently co-released a hot, new, free online tool that gives divestment campaigners an opportunity to do their own analysis of the portfolio their aiming to divest. The tool is called the Decarbonizer, and it was designed by our friends at Corporate Knights and South Pole Carbon. The tool calculates how much money a university or pension system has lost by not divesting from fossil fuels. Join us for a webinar on February 10th to learn how to use the tool and how it can be valuable for your campaign. Click here to sign up for our web workshop on the Decarbonizer.

But, before you go analyzing and building on your financial arguments for fossil fuel divestment, we want to remind you this is a moral campaign at its core.  Given the massive impact on community health from toxic emissions, spills, and leaks that has gone unchecked for decades, these companies are immoral. Given the clear physical constraints of carbon in the atmosphere and a livable planet, the long-term business plans of fossil fuel companies’ are immoral. And given the deep history of obstruction in our political process to solve the climate crisis, these companies are immoral.  

The problem is, as the financial case for divestment continues to grow, campaigners are finding it easier to walk into meetings with decision makers and just talk about how they’re going to lose money. This movement is about much more than rates of return. It’s about living up to our values; it’s about examining our current [energy] economy and redefining our future; it’s about challenging business as usual. Divestment decisions being made in a vacuum isn’t nearly as meaningful as divestment that is rooted as a tactic to change the conversation around fossil fuels companies’ social license to operate.  

The financial arguments are there to help the decision makers feel the moral decision is easier to make. Every informational barrier constructed by the decision makers is an obstruction to their sightline of doing the right thing. The financial arguments are meant to breakdown those barriers, and provide a clear path for morality.

In short, divestment campaigns have been most successful when they lead with the heart and don’t get lost in the empirical ping pong game of analysis and rebuttal. Plus, not all institutions give access to their portfolio – and we don’t recommend prioritizing figuring out what’s in the portfolio. Rather, build a moral case around the fact that it’s highly likely that they do have investments and they need to create standing policy saying they won’t invest in the fossil fuel industry.

With that being said, there are powerful and valuable ways to apply your team’s empirical brain. When the board of trustees cries, fiduciary duty, or, we’ll lose money, you now have even more solid resources to disassemble those fears.

With that, we want to help you understand how to use the Decarbonizer to build an even stronger case for your campaign.

Please join us for the webinar. Click here to sign up for our web workshop on the Decarbonizer.


Break Free From Fossil Fuels

May 3–15, 2016: On six continents, thousands of people took bold action to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground. Break Free showed what the climate movement can do in 2016:
See the Report →