WASHINGTON – Thousands of people attended over 260 events in 45 countries on six continents to put pressure on institutions to break their financial ties with fossil fuel companies, during the Global Divestment Mobilisation (GDM), which ran from 5th to 13th May. The divestment movement, which has started in North America, Australia and Europe is now spreading in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
As the world’s climate advisers participate in the Bonn climate talks and senior ministers prepare for the G7 Summit in Sicily, campaigners, faith groups, academics and impacted local communities built on the fossil fuel divestment movement setting the groundwork for future divestments.
At a time when governments are failing their people, when President Trump is threatening to leave the Paris Agreement, and climate impacts are taking us into uncharted territory in terms of floods, forest fires, heatwaves, storms and drought – divestment has proven to be an effective way to undermine the power of the fossil fuel industry politically and financially.
Global commitments to divest have already reached 710 institutions across 76 countries, representing well over US$5.5 trillion in assets under management, indicating that the fossil fuel industry has no future.
During the GDM citizens and respected institutions across the world were able to enact an immediate and a much needed transformational form of climate leadership. This included the announcement from nine Catholic organizations from around the world about their decision to divest their portfolios from fossil fuels in the largest joint Catholic divestment to date. A total of 27 Catholic institutions have now divested. Meanwhile in Brazil over 3000 people participated in prayers in a vigil outside the Umuarama Cathedral, to voice their hopes for a fossil fuel free future.
Across Europe, the links between municipalities and fossil fuel companies came under scrutiny. Over 1,000 people marched in Munich, Germany and demonstrations took place across the UK including rallies at 14 Town Halls across London demanding divestment. Campaigners also put pressure on universities pension funds, faith, health and cultural institutions such as the Louvre in Paris, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the British Museum.
The battle to safeguard people and planet is linked worldwide, the money in one part of the world is linked to infrastructure projects being built elsewhere. Hundreds gathered in Jakarta to listen to community representatives from Indramayu recount the struggles they encounter living in the shadow of a coal power plant. During an event in Japan case studies of Japanese banks financing coal power plants in Indonesia and oil pipelines in the United States were highlighted to put pressure on Japanese banks to pull out of fossil fuels.
In New Zealand and Australia campaigners targeted Australian coal-giant Adani by calling on the banks that invest in it, including CommBank to stop its funding. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has suffered a large bleaching for the second year in a row. Any mining expansion would jeopardise it even further.
Meanwhile in New York 150 activists rallied inside Trump Tower, to call on New York City officials to cut their ties with the dirty oil and gas companies that control the White House. In the face of federal government climate denial and the possibility of the US leaving the Paris Agreement, demonstrating that local leaders can show impactful climate leadership, while other parts of the country are suffering from severe flooding.
Divestment also provides the means to enact a just transition by reinvesting into renewable energy systems. This was discussed at events held across Africa at universities and local communities, where the fossil fuel industry and its culpability in climate change was discussed along with clean energy solutions, in the face of some of the worst droughts the continent has ever suffered.
The future is in the reinvestment of the divested funds to support the communities most impacted by climate change and the dirty energy based economy. The divestment movement is modelling what governments need to be doing: withdrawing funds from the problem and investing in solutions.
We urgently need this transformation in the global energy system, away from the fossil fuel dependence that drives climate change, and into renewable energy solutions for all. Moving forward through 2017 and beyond, the divestment movement will continue to grow in size, strength and boldness to make this a reality.