by Nicolas Huntington

For many years our climate has taken a beating, with Australians feeling the effects year after year with the steadily increasing temperatures and wilder weather events. Fossil fuels has played a large part in this catastrophe, but thankfully over the past 5 years the fossil fuel divestment movement has been gaining more and more traction.

The sum divested from fossil fuel has doubled from the previous year, taking the total to 5.2 trillion dollars, with current divestment commitments being around the total of 6.7 trillion dollars. Australia is leading the way in this movement, having more divested institutions per capita than any other developed country. On Monday, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon released a statement saying “the transition to a clean energy future is inevitable, beneficial, and well underway.”

So what is fossil fuel divestment?

Divestment is the opposite of investment, the fossil fuel divestment movement is centered around getting rid of all income to fossil fuel companies so as to weaken their grip on the environment and allow efforts to stop climate change to become more effective. The main focus of divesting in these companies is so they are held culpable for their involvement in the climate crisis. Research has shown that there are around 90 entities that are responsible for over 63% of the global green house emissions. Putting pressure on these companies through methods such as divestment is one of the most effective methods of pushing towards a more hopeful future.

An important piece of the divestment puzzle is 350.org. 350.org was founded by Bill McKibbin in 2009 as a movement to stop new fossil fuels and rapidly reduce greenhouse emissions. The events of the past year have been the biggest results to date for fossil fuel divestment. What started as grassroots campaigning on college campuses in America has become a large-scale divestment of fossil fuels, with stigma crippling the fossil fuel industry in reputation as well as creating the beginning of real change in the financial sector.

“As the hottest year in history comes to a close, the success of the global fossil fuel divestment movement is undeniable,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. Bill McKibben was at the spearhead of the fossil fuel divestment movement in 2011 when he received the chance to be in the spotlight in 2012 after Rolling Stone published an article discussing the importance of the movement McKibben.

Recently the Australian chapter of 350.Org was instrumental in facilitating the commitment by Sydney City Council to 100% divestment, the first council in Australia to commit to such a target. This was skilfully negotiated by Lord Mayor Clover Moore who was recently returned for her fourth term as Lord Mayor.

The cop21 agreement in November marks the first time in history that governments have agreed to legally binding limits for greenhouse gas emissions. In the face of growing political turmoil surrounding climate change, it’s clear change is being taken into the hands of those that matter. The cop21 summit set in stone an agreement between countries that make up 55 percent of the total emissions of human society, agreeing that global warming can’t be allowed to go beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

To put into perspective the scale of these developments, 55 different countries agreed on the cop21 agreement, with a further 58,000 individuals and 688 institutions across 76 countries making up the 5.2 trillion dollar fossil fuel divestment as of this year. This is change on a huge scale, with major financial institutions all over the world, including the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund owned by Norway, all on board with fossil fuel divestment. These are hopeful changes for a healthier future.

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