New 'Divest for Paris' Challenge Amplifies Global Pressure Before COP21

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New 'Divest for Paris' Challenge Amplifies Global Pressure Before COP21

"There is no future for fossil fuels—or there is no future."

"By divesting we are taking the fossil fuel industry to task for its culpability in the climate crisis." (Photo: Light Brigading/flickr/cc)

Channeling the momentum of an ever-growing movement, climate leaders launched the "Divest for Paris" challenge on Tuesday, calling on institutions, individuals, and governments to align their investments with their values by divesting from fossil fuels ahead of this fall's COP21 climate summit in Paris.

"If you say you want action in Paris, then you have a responsibility to divest from fossil fuels," said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, which is co-hosting Tuesday's Paris Divestment Conference along with the European Green Party. The conference is timed to coincide with the second day of the latest round of climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany this week, where officials are working to streamline the negotiating text world leaders are expected to finalize in Paris in December.

"With our climate in crisis, divestment is a moral necessity."
—May Boeve, 350.org

"By shifting resources from the dirty energy of the past to the 100 percent renewable energy of the future, institutions can model the type of action we need from countries at COP21," Boeve said. "With our climate in crisis, divestment is a moral necessity."

More than 350 institutions around the world have already committed to divest, including the World Council of Churches, the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, and the Park Foundation. Other divestment supporters include the United Nations, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres. Former EU climate chief Connie Hedegaard recently said divesting from coal, oil, and gas would make "a very important contribution" to the Paris negotiations.

"But the power of the fossil fuel industry threatens to derail these negotiations," 350.org warns. "Fossil fuel companies have 5 times more oil and coal and gas in known reserves than climate scientists think is safe to burn. By divesting we are taking the fossil fuel industry to task for its culpability in the climate crisis. By naming this industry’s singularly destructive influence we are helping to break the hold that the fossil fuel industry has on our economy and our governments."

Tuesday's conference and the "Divest for Paris" challenge are meant to amplify that pressure while offering a practical road map for those entities that do wish to cut ties with dirty energy sources.

"We are hopeful that Paris 2015 will be remembered in years to come as a date at which the international community began getting serious about fighting climate change," wrote Boeve and European Green Party leaders Reinhard Bütikofer and Yannick Jadot in the conference program. "And we are convinced that the divestment movement will be a most relevant factor in that change."

As Bütikofer put it: "There is no future for fossil fuels—or there is no future."

The divestment conference is being live-streamed here.

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