Global Divestment Day” Challenges Fossil Fuel Industry on February 13-14

Today, across the world, thousands of people are gathering to call on universities, cities, states, banks and religious institutions to divest from fossil fuels

WORLDWIDE -- The fossil fuel divestment movement is coming together for a Global Divestment Day of action this February 13-14 to increase the pressure on institutions to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies [1] that are at the source of the climate crisis.

The Global Divestment Day events will span across the planet marking a turning point for the movement working to further de-legitimize the fossil fuel industry.[2] In South Africa, where the divestment movement of the 1980’s played an important role in bringing down the Apartheid regime, there will be a special focus on targeting some of the country’s largest banks, who are playing a crucial role in financing Africa’s growing addiction to fossil fuels. Students across the United States and the United Kingdom are planning sit-ins and “flash-mobs” on campus. Activists in Japan, Nepal, Philippine, France and Ukraine are targeting new institutions calling on them to divest.

In Sydney, London and New York, campaigners will gather to raise awareness about the threat of a carbon bubble. In California, activists are launching a major new campaign to target the state’s pension funds. Across Australia, people will be pulling their money out of banks that finance coal mining in the country.

“The fossil fuel divestment movement has grown exponentially over the last two years--now it’s going global,” said May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org. “From the Pacific Islands to South Africa, from the United States to Germany, people are standing up and challenging the power of the fossil fuel industry. We know that fossil fuels are the past and clean energy is the future.”

The fossil fuel divestment campaign launched in the United States in 2012. Since then, it has quickly spread around the world, especially in Europe and Australia. An Oxford University research called the effort the fastest growing divestment campaign in history, one that could have a “far reaching impact” on the industry’s bottom line.[3] Since the campaign began, over twenty colleges and universities, dozens of religious institutions, and numerous cities have committed to divest. Together, the institutions represent over $USD50 billion in assets.[4] In the last 6 months alone, more than 30 institutions have divested.[5]

Campaigners who have focused on making the moral case for divestment, saw that over the last three months falling oil prices have also bolstered their case. As Rolling Stone wrote in January, “the quixotic campus campaign suddenly has the smell of smart money.”[6] Now, investors are increasingly voicing their concerns about the fossil fuel industry’s long term financial viability, and opposing new capital expenditures aimed at discovering new coal, oil and gas reserves.

In the words of Naomi Klein, acclaimed author and journalist: “We're in a much better situation to win but we need to understand that this is a window. This is the last moment to be complacent."[7]

The day will also cast a spotlight on a new, growing part of the divestment campaign: reinvestment. Activists are increasingly calling on their institutions to not only divest from the fossil fuel industry, but reinvest their money in just and sustainable energy solutions, with a particular focus on initiatives that support communities most impacted by climate change and the dirty energy based economy. Through divestment, activists in the Global South are also looking to challenge existing development policies tied to continued exploitation of fossil fuels at the expense of protecting people and planet.

“The existing high carbon development model largely benefits powerful industries and the wealthier segments of society while poor and vulnerable communities continue to carry the brunt of climate impacts” said Yossi Cadan, Global Divestment Senior Campaigner for 350.org. “We know climate change is the biggest global threat of the 21st century leading health organisations to join the call for divestment.”[8]

While activists still face an uphill battle at many institutions, divestment campaigners are fired up about the year ahead. The campaign has succeeded in sparking an increasingly high profile debate and campaigners are confident that in 2015 they will continue to de-legitimize investments in this rogue industry, successfully moving more money out of these fossil fuel companies and into bold solutions. Global Divestment Day will be another step in the right direction.

The Global Divestment Day builds on the momentum from last September’s People’s Climate March, which brought together over 400,000 people in the streets of New York City and hundreds of thousands more around the world. Organizers see divestment as a key strategy in the lead up to the UN Climate Talks in Paris, as well.

“Divestment serves as a key tool in moving the world beyond fossil fuels and towards renewable energy,” said Payal Parekh, Global Managing Director for 350.org. “The divestment movement is modeling what governments need to be doing: withdrawing funds from the problem and investing in solution. That’s the best way to ensure a brighter future for both people and planet.”

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CONTACTS

Hoda Baraka, 350.org Global Communications Manager, hoda@350.org, +201001-840-990

Yossi Cadan,350.org Global Divestment Senior Campaigner, yossi@350.org,+1416-303-9578

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] The Carbon Underground 200 is an annually updated listing of the top 100 public coal companies globally and the top 100 public oil and gas companies globally, ranked by the potential carbon emissions content of their reported reserves. The list is produced and maintained by Fossil Free Indexes, LLC. Divestment campaigns across the globe are using this list as the definition for “fossil fuel companies” in their divestment ask.

[2] Events are taking place across 6 continents and over 50 countries. Photos from worldwide events available here

[3] The Guardian: Campaign against fossil fuels growing, says study

[4] Arabella Advisors, ‘Measuring the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement’ (September 2014)

[5] Detailed timeline of divestment commitments to date can be found here

[6] Rolling Stone: The Logic of Divestment: Why We Have to Kiss Off Big Carbon Now

[7] Last month Naomi Klein and May Boeve discussed the role of fossil fuel divestment in changing everything in 2015. Their conversation can be seen here.

[8] The Guardian: Health sector should divest from fossil fuels, medical groups say

QUOTE SHEET

AFRICA

Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, writing for The Guardian. “We need an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet”, “We must stop climate change. And we can, if we use the tactics that worked in South Africa against the worst carbon emitters”, “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.“, “It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. To serve as custodians of creation is not an empty title; it requires that we act, and with all the urgency this dire situation demands.”

AUSTRALIA

Maria Clague, Yaegl woman, Australia: "Indigenous cultures are being destroyed by the fossil fuel industry. This cannot go on. When our governments won't protect us, it's time to speak in the language of money and divest from the fossil fuel companies leaving our lands to ruin."

PACIFIC ISLANDS

Isso Nihmei, Pacific Climate Warrior, Vanuatu: "The activities of the fossil fuel industry are sinking our Islands. But we are not drowning - we are fighting. I encourage people everywhere to support our fight by divesting from the fossil fuel industry."

EUROPE

Áile Javo, President of the Saami Council, Sweden: “Indigenous people around the world are threatened by climate change. We, the Saami, are standing up for our human rights in solidarity with other frontline communities, and we call on public institutions to stand with us. We demand that public money supports solutions that safeguard a livable planet instead of funding fossil fuels that rob us of our livelihoods.”

ASIA

Lidy Nacpil, Jubilee South - Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS-APMDD): “Divestment is a powerful act of solidarity and justice for the world’s most vulnerable people, a defense of nature and our planet. It is one of the most effective ways to push for a transformation in the global energy system, away from the fossil fuel dependence that drives climate change, and challenge fossil fuel corporations that oppose progress in climate action and prioritize profits over people and planet.”

NORTH AMERICA

Stephen O’Hanlon, Swarthmore Mountain Justice Organizer, Swarthmore College, USA: "Colleges and universities have a particular responsibility to ensure that their students have a future in which to flourish. It is unconscionable for our college’s and universities to invest in the very companies that are recklessly endangering our future. For too long, we have seen administrators turn their backs on our generation - and choose to side with a rogue industry. Global Divestment Day is a moment to act on the future that we know is possible."

GREENPEACE

Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director of Greenpeace: “Communities across the globe are taking the power back on their own or via innovative finance models. They are divesting from fossil fuels and sending a loud message to politicians and corporates alike: the phase out of dirty fossil fuels has only but started; achieving 100% renewable energy for all is inevitable. Those betting on a future based on coal, oil and nuclear will lose, citizens globally are demanding a just transition to a green future.”