Climate change represents the single greatest long-term threat to our cities and citizens. The health, wealth, infrastructure, and ability to maintain basic services of cities will increasingly be degraded as our planet warms and our weather worsens. Yet local governments are currently sharing in the profits made by the fossil fuel industry – investing in the very companies that are directly responsible for this threat.
Scientists tell us that we can only put 500 gigatons more of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and still keep global temperature rise below 2°C, a goal that the United States and nearly every other country on Earth has agreed to meet.
Here’s the terrifying part: the fossil fuel industry has 2795 gigatons of CO2 in their coal, oil and gas reserves, five times more than we can safely release. If we are going to see serious progress on slowing climate change, we have to address the fossil fuel industry head-on.
Divestment, a strategy pioneered in this country during the antiapartheid movement, is a powerful tool that we can use in this fight. The logic of divestment is simple: We should not fund our retirement by investing in companies whose operations ensure we won’t have a safe planet to retire on. It’s not worth greening your city for the next generation, if you are also investing millions in companies that are threatening that generation’s future. Local governments have the opportunity to be leaders in combatting this contradiction by divesting their funds – general, retirement, utility, pension, etc. – from fossil fuel companies.
New York City, under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio, announced in January 2018 they will divest $5 billion from fossil fuels. In addition to their initiative to divest, they are launching a suit against major oil companies who have profited from climate change to pay to help prepare New York to withstand the impact it will have on the city. In doing so they are joining eight California cities, including Oakland and San Francisco, and two major California counties in attempts to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for misleading the public for profit.
Other cities have been involved in divesting as well. In 2013, now former Mayor Mike McGinn of Seattle helped lead the way by divesting all of the money the city itself controlled and in 2016 Washington D.C. became the first US city to divest in full its pension fund in 2016. And now San Francisco has also joined the divestment movement by moving pension funds from risky fossil fuel investments.
By joining the momentum generated by fossil fuel divestment movement on college campuses and a growing number of municipalities like Somerville NJ, Cooperstown OH, Berlin, Paris and more, local governments can make a strong and profound statement-that profiting from climate disruption and its ever increasing human toll is morally bankrupt and fiscally imprudent.
Fossil Fuel Divestment Report for the Seattle City Employees Retirement System, Alex Lenferna, October 1st, 2014. Read more..
Energy Transition and Climate Change, Mark C. Lewis, Kepler-Cheuvreux, September 15th, 2014. Read more.
Model Ordinance: Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies, ALICE, January 1st, 2014. Read more.
Resolution Divesting the City of XXXX from publicly-traded fossil-fuel companies, ALICE, January 1st, 2014. Read more.
Resolution declaring the intention of the City of XXXX to refrain from investing in publicly-traded, Mayors Innovation Project, January 1st, 2014. Read more.
Resolution Divesting the City of XXXX from publicly-traded fossil-fuel companies, Mayors Innovation Project, January 1st, 2014. Read more.
Resolution of the Ann Arbor Energy Commission to City Council, City of Ann Arbor, January 1st, 2014. Read more.
The Power and Limits of Shareholder Advocacy with Fossil Fuel Companies, Green Century Funds, October 1st, 2013. Read more.
Five Reasons to Consider Divesting from Fossil Fuel Companies, Green Century Funds, October 1st, 2013. Read more.
To Paraphrase Mark Twain: The Cost of Divestment Has Been Greatly Exaggerated, Julie Goodridge and Christine Jantz, Northstar Asset Management, September 1st, 2013. Read more.
Follow-up to the Board’s Annual Governance Policy Work Study Sessions, Santa Clara Valley Water District, August 27th, 2013. Read more.
Resolution urging the Retirement Board of the Employees’ Retirement, City of San Francisco, August 23rd, 2013. Read more.
Institutional Pathways to Fossil Fuel Investing, Joshua Humphreys, Tellus Institute, May 1st, 2013. Read more. Washington, DC.
Resilient Portfolios and Fossil-Free Pensions, HIP Investor, March 31st, 2013. Read more.
Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, Bill McKibben, Rolling Stone, July 1st, 2012. Read more.
The $20 Trillion Carbon Bubble, Brad Johnson, Climate Progress, March 1st, 2012. Read more.
350.org is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Our online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organizers in over 188 countries.
The Fossil Free Campaign wants institutions to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies, and divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years. They have a number of resources for activists working on this issue.
ALICE (the American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange) also has model ordinance language available.
These mayors and cities have take action to divest their cities from fossil fuel companies. Join them by signing our pledge and/or contacting us for assistance; if you're not a mayor, please visit our friends at 350.org to get involved.
Santa Monica, CA City Council
Thurston County, WA Board of Commissioners
Ann Arbor, MI City Council
Oakland, CA City Council
Great Barrington, MA Select Board
Minneapolis, MN City Council
Somerville, MA Board of Alderman
San Luis Obispo, CA City Council
Boxtel, The Netherlands
Dunedin, New Zealand
Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia
Leichhardt, Sydney, Australia Municipal Council
Lismore, NSW, Australia City Council
Marrickville, Sydney, Australia
Moreland, Melbourne, Australia City Council
Oxford, United Kingdom City Council
Shire of Goomalling, Australia
If you’re ready to take action, download model resolution language below:
Model Resolution: if your city has fossil fuel holdings
Model Resolution: if your city has no fossil fuel holdings
|In our report, Divestment from Fossil Fuels: A Guide for City Officials and Activists, we provide the tools to implement a divestment campaign for your city.|