Reviews | Divestment keeps money away from fossil fuels

And at this point, the divestment has spread far beyond colleges and universities. Huge pension funds at the service New York City and state employees announced they would sell shares; earlier this year, the Maine legislature ordered the divestment of the state’s retirement fund; and last month, Quebec’s big pension fund joined the wave. We have seen entire religious groups – Episcopalians, Unitarian Universalists, American Lutherans – joining the call; the Pope has become a staunch supporter (and many prominent Catholic institutions have announced they will step down). The mayors of large cities have pledged their support, including Los Angeles, New York, Berlin and London. And a whole country, even: Ireland announced that it would divest its public funds.

And some of the world’s most historically significant investors have joined in as well: a Rockefeller charity, heir to the world’s first big oil fortune, disengaged early. Just last week, the Ford Foundation stepped into the action, adding a large automotive fortune to the tally. This month also saw the first major bank – the Postal bank – announce that it would stop lending to fossil fuel companies before the end of the decade.

Since most people don’t have an oil well or coal mine in their backyard, divestment is a way to get a lot of people involved in the fight against the climate because they have a connection to a fund. pension, mutual fund, endowment or other pot of money. When we started the divestment campaign, our immediate goal was, as we said, to “take away the social license” from Big Oil: it was a way to let people know the essential truth about the fossil fuel industry. , namely that its reserves of oil, gas and coal contained five times as much carbon as scientists said we could safely burn. Later this week, the heads of the major oil companies bear witness before Congress to find out if their companies have misled the public about global warming and sought to thwart action on the problem.

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The movement has grown to such an extent that it is now also testing the ability of certain companies to raise capital. As of 2017, Peabody was SEO divestment as a major concern; The following year, Shell warned shareholders that the campaign could have a “significant negative effect on the price of our securities and our ability to access equity capital markets.”

The early users of divestment have been generously rewarded; Over the past five years, the market has grown at an annual rate of 16 percent, but the oil and gas sector fell at an annual rate of 3 percent. Today, many investors are investing in clean energy, the returns of which have increased at an annual rate of 22% over the same period. And another pleasing result: it was largely alumni of the college divestment struggles who formed the Sunrise Movement, a group of young climate activists, and who championed the proposed Green New Deal; it has been a training ground for activists around the world.

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