Fossil Fuels Divestment Reaches $6.24 Trillion

Fossil Fuels Divestment Reaches $6.24 Trillion

SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. Fossil fuel divestment has become a global
phenomenon. This week, the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment
Movement released a new report showcasing an incredible growth in scale and impact of
the movement. According to this report, close to 1000 institutional
investors with $6.24 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuels. This is up from $52 billion just four years
ago. This week we have been covering the protests
of the environmental activists and the California Governor Jerry Brown’s Global Climate Action
Summit. The protesters that are on the streets are
demanding that their leaders play their role in accelerating policy efforts to curb global
warming. To discuss all of this with me today is Ellen
Dorsey. She is at the summit, and she’s joining us
from San Francisco. Ellen Dorsey is the executive director of
the Wallace Global Fund, a private foundation focused on progressive social change in the
field of the environment, democracy, human rights, and corporate accountability. Ellen Dorsey was awarded the 2016 inaugural
Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel’s Brave Philanthropy Award. Ellen, I thank you so much for joining us. ELLEN DORSEY: Thank you, Sharmini, for having
me. SHARMINI PERIES: Ellen, now, obviously you
are celebrating the monumental achievements of the movement and the successes the divestment
movement has had. And of course your role has been very important
in all of this. So highlight for us the achievements of the
movement, and what is actually logged in that report. ELLEN DORSEY: Sure. So just this week movement leaders released
a global state of the divestment movement report, announced new commitments by investors
to move their assets out of fossil fuels as an ethical, financial, and fiduciary imperative,
and into climate solutions, as well- investing as well as divesting- and issued a call to
action to be carried out through the proceedings of the Global Climate Action Summit. In short, four years ago we held the first
press conference in September of 2014. And at that time it marked that there were
$52 billion in assets under management that had already divested from fossil fuels as
a result of advocacy begun by students just three years earlier. And now, four years later, this week we announced
that nearly a thousand institutional investors have committed to divest from fossil fuels
with $6.24 trillion in assets under management. That’s a nearly 12,000 percent increase from
that first announcement. SHARMINI PERIES: All right. Now, Ellen, you’re not talking about just
divesting. You’re also talking about investing in good
things. Tell us about that part of the report. ELLEN DORSEY: Not all institutions that have
committed to divest have made explicit commitments to investment, but many have. For instance, my sector, philanthropy, we
organize something called Divest Invest Philanthropy. We now have over 175 foundations that have
committed to divest from all fossil fuels and invest 5 percent of our investment portfolios
in climate solutions, including what I think is very important, is investing in universal
energy access to make sure that the billion-plus without electricity today are included in
the energy transition and are reached with safe, clean, and affordable energy, and also
to invest in the just transition. We should be putting our capital into extractive
communities, and to support dislocated extractive workers. On the call to action, the call to action
that we released on Monday included a call for all investors to be putting 5 percent
of their investments into climate solutions to rapidly scale renewables, which we must
do to be able to reach that 2 degrees Celsius limit of warming. We also have to invest in the solutions, as
well as divest from the problem. SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Ellen, you were
talking about universities and students engaged in this movement, which has been a critical
part. Give us a sense of how this movement grew;
how it started, and how it grew. ELLEN DORSEY: Yeah, it’s a great story. In 2011, the first group of students working
on fossil fuel divestment emerged at Swarthmore University. In the summer of 2011, students from about
eight campuses, along with four or five environmental organizations, came together to plan campaigns
on college campuses. Started with 8, grew to 40. In the interim, an organization called Carbon
Tracker released its analysis about the impending carbon bomb, the kind of stranded asset risk
analysis, and the idea that just like there was a tech bubble, there would be a carbon
bubble. And so Bill McKibben brilliantly linked these
divestment campaigns with this new analysis by Carbon Tracker, and released an article
called Do the Math in Rolling Stone. It lit a match. 40 campuses went to 400 overnight. And then the movement started spreading to
faith, to cities, to pension funds, to philanthropy, my sector, health groups, hospitals, and now
it’s reached the financial mainstream. Large-scale insurers, large-scale pension
funds have all been committing to divest. Some for ethical reasons, some for ethical
and financial reasons, some for purely financial reasons and to uphold their fiduciary duty. So it’s exploded, grown like wildfire around
the world. SHARMINI PERIES: Ellen, speaking of the global
effect. Now, various city mayors and governors like
Governor Brown has taken this issue up. Now Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio and London
Mayor Sadiq Khan just published an op-ed in The Guardian calling on all cities to divest
from fossil fuels. This is incredible, it’s having a domino effect
all over the world, which is wonderful. Tell us more about it. ELLEN DORSEY: It’s unbelievably exciting to
watch. You know, I’ve been an activist for many decades. Hate to say how many. And I consider myself a little bit of a student
of social movements. And this movement is now a fully- a full-blown
global social movement. It’s hydra-headed. It’s not coordinated by any one institution. It’s made up of individuals that have called
upon institutions that they have a relationship with, a university, their faith group, their
pension fund, their retirement accounts, and advocated for those, you know, institutional
investors to divest from fossil fuels. And it’s exploded globally. It’s in many countries in the world, North
and South. And what’s been fascinating is now to see
how cities and governments are grabbing on as a result of advocacy and grassroots pressure,
not doing this just on their own, or now committing to divest. The government of Ireland has committed to
divest its national fund. And now the mayors of London and New York
both committing to divest and invest are launching a new forum, a Divest Invest Cities forum,
calling on mayors all over the world to join them to move their assets out of fossil fuels
and invest in the clean energy economy that will produce jobs in their cities, in their-
in their boroughs, and et cetera. So it has exploded. It’s like, just wildfire. SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Ellen, here are
some challenges that the movement is facing. Some progressive economists at the Political
Economy Research Institute, PERI, which is a progressive-oriented research house at the
University of Massachusetts Amherst, published a study in April that concluded that fossil
fuel divestment campaigns have not been that effective at significantly reducing CO2 emissions,
and that they are not likely to become more effective over time. Now, it also found that divestment does not
have a major impact on stock market prices of fossil fuel companies. What is your response to that? ELLEN DORSEY: Well, I’m open minded and respect
different opinions and different ways of analyzing the problem. First I would say that this movement has a
kind of complex theory of change, if you’ll let me break apart a bit. First and foremost, it’s build- the purpose
of the fossil fuel divestment movement initially was to build a global climate movement. Prior to the early days of divestment there
was not a climate movement. There were pockets of advocacy around the
world, but we didn’t have a people’s movement, nor did we have a global people’s movement. So calling for divestment and calling for
institutions to divest their assets from fossil fuels is something of a tactic that any activists
in any part of the world could do. And so it was first and foremost a way to
build power and to focus on the problem. Prior to the call for divestment, all of the
activists around the world and environmental advocates in general were calling for policy
change. The problem is that the fossil fuel industry
owned governments, and prevented action on policy. So the number one goal of the movement was
to take away the social license of the industry to operate, and to weaken its grip over the
political process. And I think that is absolutely essential first
and foremost, and it is starting to do that. Secondly, it’s about exposing the failed business
model of the fossil fuel industry. You know, really pulling back the black curtain
on what the industry, on the worms inside, as it were, and the problems with the industry
so that investors would begin to withdraw their capital. And then third, it’s about capitalizing the
solutions. We can’t actually get off of fossil fuels
unless we grow the alternatives. And by growing the alternatives and making
renewables cost competitive, that is hurting the the bottom line of the industry. And the industry is starting to hurt as a
result of this. In fact, even Shell Oil in their annual report
cited the divestment movement as a material risk to its investors. Now, to me that tells you that they know that
this is threatening them, threatening their core business model. And as well it is threatening their grip over
the political process, which will enable us to regulate that carbon, which is the thing
that will bring the emissions down fastest. So a complicated answer to that question,
but I’m not surprised that we don’t see dramatic reductions in emissions right now, because
we’re building a longer-term movement against the most powerful industry in the world. SHARMINI PERIES: Ellen, now, the researchers
recommended that the environmental activists, instead of directing their energy into divestment,
should instead direct their efforts to drive down fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. So what do you make of that? ELLEN DORSEY: Well, first of all, divestment
is not the only thing that’s going to get us to what we need. So absolutely, we should be driving down consumption. I don’t disagree with that at all. But reducing consumption is not going to change
the problem, the core problem, that at this point the industry has been so powerful it
has worked against regulation of carbon. And so we have to do- we have to drive down
consumption where we can. We have to embolden politicians to take regulatory
action. But we as individuals can use the lever of
finance as a people’s lever of social change, and all those factors together will work hand
in hand to help us transition off the dependence on the fossil fuels and into a clean energy
economy. That, too, is going to have its own challenges. We need to fight to make sure that the renewable
industry isn’t creating environmental harms and human rights violations, as well. So you know, we’re always in struggle for
a better world. But this struggle right now to get off of
fossil fuels is absolutely urgent, and we have very very little time to waste. SHARMINI PERIES: Ellen, you are in this unique
position of being able to go to the protest, walk the streets with civil society actors
and activists, and be a part of the movement, but you also spoke yesterday at the summit,
and you also have access to the decisionmakers, the policymakers, those who are all positioned
to make a real difference by way of policy and adopting good comprehensive plans for
the world. But you are also up against corporations in
these sites of, you know, talking about these very important issues for the world. How do you navigate all of that? ELLEN DORSEY: Yeah, it’s a good question. And I would say that I was extremely pleased
to be out in the streets, in the protest, in the marches. Many of the organizations that my foundations
support were out in the streets. And they’re calling for both more rapid action,
more authentic action, and climate action that respects those most at risk. And to ensure that the people who are in the
streets are actually in the suites, as well. That you know, consultation with Indigenous
groups and frontline EJ groups, et cetera. So I was proud to be part of that march. And in turn, when you go into the meeting,
I feel it’s a personal responsibility to bring those messages into the discussion in every
way that I can, whether it’s in participating in forums, or in my own, you know, remarks
about climate finance, and that we need to be thinking about not just getting awful fossil
fuels, but we need to be investing in the just transition and we need to struggle over
the questions of who will own the clean energy economy of the future? Who are the beneficiaries? And how do we do things better that respect
human rights and the environment as we’re structuring basically the underpinnings of
the global economy, our energy. We’re structuring a new global economy with
this transition off of fossil fuels, and so much is at stake. So it’s important to bring the leverage of
the street and the organizing and the activists into those discussions, and also to speak
truth to power when the corporations are sitting in the room with you, and the government officials
that are slow walking this transition. It’s important to speak with authenticity
and, and often courage. SHARMINI PERIES: And Ellen Dorsey, thank you
for doing that on our behalf and on behalf of humanity. I thank you so much for joining us today. ELLEN DORSEY: Thank you. SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining
us here on The Real News Network.

24 thoughts on “Fossil Fuels Divestment Reaches $6.24 Trillion

  1. We need to start pumping all the dinosaurs out of the moon…we could use a splatternator…we need space oil pipelines running from the moon to earth so we don't destroy the planet…we can just get the pipe close to earth, then just shoot it at giant upside down milkjugs cut in half on the ground to catch the falling oil. The moon doesn't have an ecosystem to destroy so drill baby drill

  2. To all those unsung heroes who, with determination and picket signs rather than guns and bullets, are changing, and perhaps, saving the world. They are the only ones who ever have.

  3. Lend some support and encouragement for Julian Assange please.

  4. This effort seems to be successful, I appreciate its efforts although I see them as naive. There are trillions of dollars floating around in offshore accounts. There is still plenty of money available to the oil companies or anyone else who can offer sufficient profit. It is an amoral system, there are no bad guys or good guys there are only winners and losers. The "winners" have the power to do as they choose – our financial system is essentially Feudal.

  5. Spain was heavily investing in solar and renewables some 8 years ago and reaching up to German headshot, then came the crisis, rulers Trump-style and everything was destroyed almost overnight. Why? Because the oil companies and, crucially, the US Federal Reserve (US dollar's stability is based on oil consumption and Saudi vasallage), also have their own much more expeditive and ruthless campaing of divestment from solar energy, they even introduced a "solar tax", so go figure!

    That's the shape of modern fascism: they want more oil consumption because they want to preserve the US Empire and because solar energy is harmful for large corporations, because it's heavily decentralized.

  6. Not good news for the working class, working people depend on cheap gas prices staying cheap.
    Trump will protect the fossil fuel industry by using the damage the divestment movement will do to the working person and he will be right!
    The industry will only raise gas prices to save their asses from the divestment movement killing their business.
    You think the divestment movement will also pressure Congress to bail out the working class while this energy change over happens?
    I doubt it.
    The working class has to organize itself and fight for its own interests because nobody else will. It is excluded from the capitalization of new energy.
    Personally, I am suspicious new industries producing panels are out to make a buck on a new energy trend.
    I also don't like the idea of the southwest desert and other natural landscapes covered with panel solar collectors.
    Collectors which are still primitive technology compared to what the military is working on for solar power.
    This is a case where a movement is not coming from a working class standpoint even if they are working class people in it.

  7. "Reducing consumption will not solve the problem", so what? The world will be fine as long as McDonald's cooks your Big Mac
    with renewable energy?

  8. Seconds into her speil she says "ethical" about the investors…."your equation and it summation require that a movement take place, dwarfing anything you two could ever put together, or the investors. That would be for the non-ethical saturation if our society, to suddenly and miraculously reverse." Not just stop, but to stop then reverse. Here is a why for my words….."Obama passed a bill to build over 30 new nuclear reactors for electricity." Anything ethical about this? Battery's the size of ships are being built. Know what's in battery's? I dare anyone to open that can of worms without me wanting logic to explain. Also, an industry that has had hold of us this long, is not going to belly up like this. There's also the fact that coal production will increase a hundred fold, and already has started… and it is the number one provider if electricity today…has been for almost 400 yrs. Tell Chevron they now have ethics, whether they like it or not.

  9. Everyone runs past the fact that we need to stop burning fossil fuels because we need every bit of what's left to make plastic. What will plastic be made of, and how much will it cost, when oil gets more scarce? Look around your house and imagine if there was no more plastic!!!!

  10. Sadly your guest has bought into the arbitrary 2 degree mark. We're up 1 degree now and the methane could release in Siberia at any time bringing mass extinction rapidly. We won't survive a 2 degree rise. Simple thermodynamics will show this to anyone that is interested in being honest about the situation we now face. I pray the Oligarch suffer greatly and go extinct first in the most horrible way possible for what they have done.

  11. this is good but we have to mandate renewable energy because fossil fuel companies are still making trillions by pushing their planet destroying products

  12. Fake news alert! Your caption is extremely misleading. The divestment is 52 billion NOT 6.24 trillion i.e. nothing. To those referring to Germany and Spain as exemplars of solar energy use, you good people need to fact check: German energy prices have exploded and Spanish oil consumption is flat, maybe down,  but they have 30% unemployment. The placard wielders are calling for more of this. The ruling classes and their retainers I'm sure are delighted with themselves; they've convinced a frightfully large number of young people and activist types of all ages to immolate themselves. At once, horrifying and impressive.

  13. Five months later you wonder how much of the "commitments" to divest are actually happening. Jerry Brown and California commited to reduce the carbon footprint by 50% but in reality Brown increased fracking and Chevron, based in San Francisco, is still running the show on the ground.

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