The global divestment movement has celebrated an important milestone this week as it now boasts more than 1,000 institutions around the world worth almost $8 trillion which have committed to divesting from fossil fuels.
Global grassroots climate movement 350.org announced on Thursday that, with the announcement at the end of November by France’s public sector pensions manager Caisse des dépôts et consignations (CDC) that it would no longer invest in companies that make more than 10% of their business from coal, the total number of institutions committing to divestment had reached 1,000. In addition to CDC, three other commitments helped push the movement over the 1,000 mark, including AG2R la mondiale, Australian Vision Super Fund, and Brandeis University.
“When this movement started in 2012, we aimed to catalyse a truly global shift in public attitudes to the fossil fuel industry, and people’s willingness to challenge the institutions that financially support it,” said May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org. “While diplomats at the UN climate talks are having a hard time making progress, our movement has changed how society perceives the role of fossil fuel corporations and is actively keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”
Growth in Number of Divestment Commitments
The most recent commitments bring billions of dollars of investments underneath the global divestment rubric, with CDC worth €173 billion ($196 billion), AG2R la mondiale worth $114 billion, Australian Vision Super Fund worth $9 billion, and Brandeis University $997 million.
“The reach and impact of this global movement is huge — major institutions with almost $8 trillion in assets have committed to divest from the likes of Exxon and Shell,” May Boeve continued. “The momentum has been driven by a people-powered grassroots movement – it’s ordinary people pushing their local institutions to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry – the industry most responsible for the current climate crisis.”
Growth in Total Assets of Divesting Institutions
The spread of institutions committing to divestment remains wide-ranging but is led by faith-based organizations, which account for 28% of total divesting institutions. Philanthropic foundations account for 18%, while government bodies account for 15% along with educational institutions. Geographically, there is a global spread, but in 2018 it was highly concentrated in Europe, with only four companies in the Americas, a handful in the Asia Pacific region, and another handful in Africa.
Nevertheless, the divestment movement has shown its longevity and strength as it surpasses the 1,000 mark, and the fossil fuel industry is beginning to take notice.
“The fossil fuel industry is one of the most powerful political actors in the history of the world,” said May Boeve. “The tentacles of this industry reach into the offices of the powerful, including at this UN Summit where they’ve been welcomed on the red carpet. The divestment movement gives every person the opportunity to join the dots and make clear that climate change is not ‘just happening’ – it’s being actively fueled by corporations like Exxon and Shell and anyone who funds them.”
“This movement started to send a clear message to the fossil fuel industry that we would not sit by while they profited by selling fuels that cause climate breakdown. It’s not just about the bottom-line, it’s also about their reputations in the public square. The scale of this movement shows that selling products that you know cause climate change is not acceptable, and nor is investing in them.”