Current Leaders in the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

Globally, the ideal of fossil fuel divestment currently seems more realized in European countries than in the United States. However, there are some corporate and civic leaders who are proving to be inspiring examples to those of us hoping for a more carbon-free future.

Let’s examine what some of the leaders of the sustainability movement are doing in an effort to curb global carbon emissions and divest from the fossil fuel industry for good.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Divestment from fossil fuels could significantly help to curb global carbon emissions, and here’s why: according to The Guardian’s coverage of The Carbon Majors Report, a mere 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions after 1988. The power these companies currently wield in influencing our quality of life—including air, water, and soil quality—is bewildering. The fossil fuel industry could stand to lower its impetus for continuing to mine finite resources for unsustainable fuel.

Combined with a renewed effort to support renewable energy sources and means of production, climate change could experience a significant slow down. Corporate leaders like Ørsted, Tesla, and Patagonia are demonstrating what is possible, with concerted effort. For example, Finnish renewable energy company Ørsted recently called for action on climate change, announcing that in addition to their 2017 divestment from fossil fuels, they plan to cease all use of coal by 2023 and become essentially carbon-free.

In a major symbolic action, the city of New York—along with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, World Council of Churches, Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, and Axa—have decided to divest from fossil fuels completely. San Francisco is also set to vote on the issue of divestment shortly.

Moreover, urban metropolitan areas such as New York City and Paris are vowing to divest from fossil fuels in a PR-conscious effort to draw attention to this issue: according to Triple Pundit, “Managers of the city’s five pension funds have been tasked to sell the securities of the estimated 190 fossil fuel companies included in the city’s investment portfolios.”

However, in addition to divestment, these cities are going one step further.

Lawsuits Tied to Climate Change

Believe it or not, Paris is considering suing fossil fuel companies. This reaction comes in response to recent severe flooding that occurred early this year—in part because studies have tied climate change to the increased likelihood of floods in the city in recent years.

Paris committed to divestment when the original Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. After the flooding that took place in 2016 and again early this year, Paris is considering legal action against the fossil fuel industry. Because studies have shown climate change to be a culprit in temperatures warming and water levels rising, cities located near major waterways and coastlines are looking for ways to protect themselves from companies causing increased carbon emissions.

Similarly, New York City is planning to sue the oil industry over their contribution to global warming that is affecting their air quality and standard of living.

Investment in Sustainability Efforts

Although the current U.S. administration is intent on making coal seem viable as a source of fuel again, renewable energy systems will continue to create new jobs and infrastructure, proving itself more cost-effective than fossil fuels. Carbon emissions from coal and natural gas power plants cause air pollution that has been tied to health problems like cancer, respiratory issues, heart failure, and neurological damage.

In addition to providing a healthier living environment, clean energy will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, produce less waste, and serve as a source of education and inspiration about the possibilities of technology for a more sustainable future.

Though they are not yet among the public and private organizations that have chosen to divest from fossil fuel companies, Patagonia and North Face have been very clear about their commitment to clean energy and investments in projects related to deforestation and more carbon-neutral production practices.

After Patagonia withdrew from last summer’s annual Outdoor Retailer trade show in Utah, they made their political position very clear to customers and investors via their website. Patagonia is also conducting an academic challenge or experiment for students to hypothesize about how it might go carbon-neutral by 2025.

Economic Trends in Renewable Energy Policy

Despite the constant stream of detrimental policy decisions from Washington D.C., some of the most hopeful trends and statistics are coming from the private sector. The demand for sustainable business practices is grounded, in part, in new consumer standards that value the triple bottom line of people, profits, and planet.

Marylhurst University writes, “Recent studies suggest that the rate of growth [for] jobs with ‘environmental compliance’ as a keyword increased by nearly 25 percent since 2010, and jobs focusing on ‘energy efficiency’ have grown by nearly 500 percent.” In addition to the private sector, sustainability leadership positions are being created in government, nonprofit, and educational organizations as well.

According to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), renewable power will vastly undercut fossil fuel by the year 2020. Personal investment can aid in the fight for renewable energy dominance, but it’s up to all of us to speak up with not only our votes but our wallets as well.

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Do you know of any companies or cities in your region of the country that are making significant progress toward renewable energy investment or divestment from fossil fuels? How can you work to draw more attention to this issue at the city and state level where you live? Share your thoughts and input in the comments section below.

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Image Source: Pixabay

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