It is Time to Seize the Day with Divestment

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Students and civic leaders are putting pressure on investors to withdraw support for fossil fuels as global warming is increasing.

As scientists are now warning that global warming is occurring more quickly than previously anticipated – as we pass the historic milestone of temperatures surpassing 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels for the first time – the campaign to divest from fossil fuels and save the planet from catastrophic climate change is urgent and timely.

Drawing on the support of students and civic leaders, campaigns have put pressure on investors to withdraw support for fossil fuels. So far Fossil Free has won support from 505 institutions and has secured approximately $3.4 trillion worth of divestment worldwide.

Knowing what we already do about our impact on the environment, the need to divest is obvious. Demand for fossil fuels increases the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmopshere, which traps heat and causes a ‘greenhouse effect’, warming the planet and destroying the ice caps. The need for an energy alternative which values sustainability and equity is beyond debate.

2014 was a good year for divestment. In September, the Rockefeller oil dynasty gave a symbolic boost to global calls for investors to invest more positively, joining a campaign that vows to withdraw $50bn of investment in
fossil fuels.

The divestment movement also landed a victory in October, when Glasgow University became the first in the UK to commit to fully dis-investing from fossil fuel industry companies. Since then a tranche of Universities have followed suit.

The kinds of institutions dis-investing are endless. They range from faith-based groups, to foundations, pension funds, governmental organisations, colleges, universities and schools, NGOs, for-profit corporations, health and others.

Beyond being a financial issue, divestment addresses an ethical and social dilemma. Global warming is going to have catastrophic effects felt most sorely by the poorest communities on Earth. We who are creating the problems must find solutions.

Support for Fossil Free is a clear sign of a growing consciousness of the need for meaningful action and rational policy solutions in the face of climate change and the danger of surpassing the point of no return.

But climate change keeps being left on the back burner by politicians because there is a widespread feeling that it won’t really be felt until another generation or two.

Nevertheless activists are arguing that they need to do more to make sure that stocks of carbon are left underground.

The environmental crises of our era require a radical reorientation of politics. At a time when action and consensus on formulating rational policy to deal with the effects of climate change seems to have waned, following peaks in interest, the success of the recent divestment movement gives us hope that activism can help put the Earth’s future back on the agenda again.

Featured Image:Wikimedia Commons

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