Fossil fuel divestment campaign Gathers momentum
The world has a choice when dealing with climate change. One is to decide it’s a problem like any other, which can be dealt with slowly and over time. The other is to recognise it as a crisis, perhaps the unique crisis in human history, which will take rapid, urgent action to overcome.
Science is in the second, scared camp – that’s the meaning of the IPCC report issued last month, which showed that our planet is already undergoing climatic shifts far greater than any experienced in human civilisation, with far worse to come.
And those of us urging divestment from fossil fuel stocks are in the second camp too – we recognise that business as usual is quite simply impossible.
In fact, the most important feature of the IPCC report is probably that it adopted the analysis put forward by Carbon Tracker analysts in the UK and divestment activists who started their campaign a year ago in the US. The scientists’ report quite explicitly said that most of the coal and oil and gas that the fossil fuel industry has identified and plans to mine or drill must remain in the ground to avoid climate catastrophe.
That in turn is why the fossil fuel industry, when it isn’t in outright denial about climate change, falls into the first camp: slow, measured change would be nice. Because then we could pump up all the carbon we’ve told our shareholders and our banks about. Because then our stock prices will stay nice and high. Because then we won’t have to confront reality – otherwise known as physics – for a while longer.
The gulf between these two camps poses a huge question for those who might think of themselves on the sidelines. Those, say, who own shares in the fossil fuel industry. In the US, a number of colleges, churches, and universities have begun to divest those stocks, arguing that they can’t both simultaneously decry the wreckage of the climate and try to profit from it for a few more years.
The mayor of Seattle explained that his city was already spending millions building seawalls – what sense did it make to invest in the companies making that work necessary? The trustees of San Francisco State University recognised that it made no sense to have, on the one hand, a physics department understanding climate change and on the other hand, an endowment full of oil and gas stocks. The United Church of Christ, which traces its roots back to the Pilgrims, decided it couldn’t pay the pastor by investing in companies that are running Genesis backwards.
This same opportunity is becoming part of a worldwide debate. From Africa come some of the loudest voices demanding divestment: Desmond Tutu, who watched the effectiveness of the movement a generation ago when it was stock in apartheid-tainted companies that was at issue, has asked us to take up the same tool. “If you could see the drought and famine in Africa, you would understand why,” he says.
And it’s not just North America responding. The Uniting Church in Australia, Anglican dioceses in New Zealand, and now the UK’s Operation Noah have launched Bright Now – a church divestment campaign whose first success came earlier this month with the Quakers in Britain announcing they will disinvest from companies engaged in extracting fossil fuels making them the first UK Christian denomination to do so.
In addition, UK university students are increasingly engaged in divestment campaigns as evidenced by the work undertaken by People & Planet. To date there are 19 active divestment campaigns across the UK including universities with the largest endowments: Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh.
We’ll be looking to grow the campaign this month with the Fossil Free Europe tour, a divestment road show with stops in Berlin, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Birmingham and London.
Everyone involved in this campaign understands that divestment won’t in fact bankrupt Exxon or BP or Shell, but they also understand how important it is to politically bankrupt them. These are now rogue industries, committed to burning more carbon than any government on earth thinks would be safe to burn. Their irresponsibility belongs to their executives and boards of directors – but it also belongs to anyone who holds their shares. If you think that climate change is a true crisis, then the time has come to sever your ties.
Fossil Free Tour — Global 350 Comes to Scotland — 30th Oct 2013
By Mike Small
Many of us found inspiration from the work of Bill McKibben, the movements founder, an American writer who was one of the very first people to really understand what was happening with climate change. His seminal work ‘The End of Nature’ was published in 1989. Since then there’s been a slew of books from him including ‘Fight Global Warming Now: The Handbook for Taking Action in Your Community’ (2007) and ‘Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age’ (2003) and more recently ‘Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet’ - to name just three.
Now Bill and the 350 Movement are coming to Scotland with the message:
“If it’s wrong to wreck the climate, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.”
This autumn, McKibben – will lead the Fossil Free Europe Tour. From Berlin to Amsterdam – then to Edinburgh on the 30th October. As with previous sell-out tours in the USA and Australia, he will make the case for how the core business model of the fossil fuel industry is destroying our climate, and poses the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.
This won’t be a typical lecture, but a multi-media experience that will help galvanise the movement. McKibben will bring together, on stage and on video, an impressive group of social movement leaders, organisers, climate scientists, and opinion leaders to make the case that divesting from fossil fuel companies is not just morally just, but ecologically and economically smart. He will do so in collaboration with local movement leaders and live musical performances from the ground-breaking artist Filastine.
Here’s Bill’s famous, brilliant and scarey Rolling Stone article ‘Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math’ from 2012 with 6577 comments – which shook America.
Thanks to Mike Small for this take on Bill McKibben and the Fossil Free Tour, first published on Fife Diet.
What is Holyrood 350?
Holyrood 350 was launched by people from across Scotland who are actively working to reduce their communities carbon footprint coming together to ask:
How can communities help the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood to tackle the fundamental drivers that are threatening all our futures, and how can we support them to enable communities to build their resilience and tackle these causes at the local level too?
We were responding to the message of top climate scientists that CO2 in the atmosphere must be reduced from what was then (when H350 formed in 2009) 390ppm to bring CO2 down to below 350, to avoid a rise of 2 degrees and catastrophic climate chaos.
As people from climate active communities the length and breadth of Scotland, we fully appreciated the ground breaking Climate Change Act brought in by the Scottish Government and passed by our Parliament. As people fully aware of the lack of progress in international negotiations - at Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, etc. — we were clear that the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund is a globally unique, cutting-edge way of inspiring and helping local communities to demonstrate that reducing carbon emissions can increase community cohesion, infrastructure, energy security and well-being.
We see the Scottish Government as being in a unique position to continue taking the lead in the race out of carbon, not only through ensuring that all our energy needs are met through renewables, but by enabling all communities to make the transition to resilience through adopting a clear framework in which communities can flourish. By doing so Scotland can demonstrate to the world how rising to the challenge of climate change can enrich rather than impoverish us.
A sketch of the draft Resilience Strategy for Scotland we produced is here.
HOLYROOD 350 is currently co-ordinated by Justin Kenrick of PEDAL Portobello. It was set up by him and by the following people who were at that time involved in the following community initiatives (most still are):
Andy Ross Glasgow CRAG, Mike Small Fife Diet, Lucy Conway Isle of Eigg, Eva Schonveld PEDAL Portobello, Rachel Nunn Going Carbon Neutral Stirling, Nick Wilding Falkland Transition, Jonathan Dawson Findhorn Ecovillage, Jane Grey Let’s Live Local, Abi Morden Urban Roots Glasgow, Alan Drever Sleat, Isle of Skye, Alan Brown Transition Linlithgow
We have spoken very clearly through different media at different times — e.g. through our excellent event in Parliament — but after a break of a year or two where local activities took over from pushing in this way at the national level, we are asking:
- Is Holyrood350/350 Scotland a crucial initiative to revive at this fluid time in Scottish politics? If not, fine — there’s plenty else to be doing! But if so
- What is the best way for communities to speak and effect change at the national level in Scotland today? and, more specifically,
- Should we redesign and relaunch this old old website as 350land, and reconvene (virtually &/or face to face)?
… let us know your thoughts!
justinkenrick (at) yahoo.co.uk