One thing we have learnt this week- divestment

divestmentThe big story of the week has to be divestment (more specifically fossil fuel divestment).   Increasingly individuals, philanthropic investment  funds, educational institutions and (I’m glad to say) churches are selling their shares in fossil fuel companies.  The divestment  movement which has been likened to that over slavery started in the US but is now spreading worldwide and judging by the numbers last autumn was in the early stages of exponential growth.  Its actually very hard to keep pace, since every few days a new victory is announced.  Last week on the plus side the London assembly voted to pull its pension funds out of fossil fuels (although its ultimately up to the mayor), Oxford University put a decision off.  Last Autumn Glasgow University was the first University in Europe to divest.  The Guardian also joined the fray last week asking the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome trust to divest as well as thinking about the Guardians own divestment plans.  The moral logic over this push is obvious both these philanthropic organisations work to improve human health, something climate change is working against.

There are also good financial reasons to do so.  The first is the idea of a carbon bubble.  We cannot afford to burn all the fossil fuels left in the ground and expect to meet a 2 degree target.  If there is a strong agreement in Paris, these reserves maybe become stranded assets.  An increasing number of politicians are warning about this and also the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney.  Some people reckon this could even cause another global crash since so much of the assets of pension funds is tied up in fossil fuels.

The second reason for divestment is the expansion of renewable energy technologies (and I would add efficiency technologies such as LED’s).  The expansion of solar power in particular is always underestimated by analysts.  As the costs fall towards subsidy free economics then these technologies could take off explosively undercutting fossil fuel production. If there is a weak agreement in Paris then one outcome as a sop is governments pushing renewables harder.

Divestment looks like being a huge story over the next year and shows early signs of being very successful, I’m proud to say many churches are leading the way on this although there is still a long way to go.


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