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Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

Read these updates on fossil fuel divestment, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery, pandemic preparedness, and more.

| June/July 2020

 The Overpass Light Brigade, a Wisconsin-based organization, coordinates electrified protests to lobby for fossil-fuel divestment.
Photo by Flickr/depthandtime

Numerous institutions, from philanthropic foundations to powerful corporations, fund, insure, and invest in fossil fuels — so a growing grassroots movement is calling on those institutions to divest from the volatile fossil-fuel industry, citing it as a driver of human rights violations, deforestation, and climate destruction.

The divestment movement began as a decentralized network of people who used their membership or support of universities, churches, and organizations to push for divestment on a local level. As a result of this pressure, more than 1,100 institutions have made divestment commitments, bringing the amount of divested funds above $14 trillion.

Now, a new arm of the divestment movement has emerged that’s bigger in scope and involves a coalition that has come together under the name Stop the Money Pipeline. Elana Sulakshana, an energy finance campaigner at Rainforest Action Network (RAN), says this movement primarily targets financial institutions, the biggest backers of the fossil-fuel industry. RAN’s 2020 fossil fuel finance report, “Banking on Climate Change,” shows that 35 banks have invested a total of $2.7 trillion into fossil fuels since 2016, the year after the Paris Agreement was adopted, and that bank financing for fossil fuels is on the rise at a time when climate science is calling for rapid global decarbonization. Of those 35 banks, JPMorgan Chase is by far the top fossil-fuel funder, providing $268 billion in funding for fossil fuels since 2016.

People in the divestment movement have aimed to create reputational risk for these banks by shutting down bank branches with songs and signs; regularly contacting CEOs; encouraging employees to raise questions internally; and pressuring legislators to mandate the disclosure of climate risks and consequences.

Their actions have had an impact. “Fossil fuel companies have cited divestment as a reason they don’t have enough financial backing, and major oil and gas companies like Shell are fighting divestment as a threat to their business,” Sulakshana says. “Divestment is one piece in pushing for a just transition from the extractive economy to a regenerative democratic economy. And we’re calling on financial institutions to prioritize people and the planet above profits, and reinvest that money in an economy that supports communities.”

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