At Investor Summit, United Nations Strengthens the Call for Fossil Fuel Divestment

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jamie Henn
jamie [at] 350.org
415-890-3350

At Investor Summit, United Nations Strengthens the Call for Fossil Fuel Divestment

350.org’s Senior Analyst, Strategy Director, and Communications Coordinator available for comment at Investor Summit

NEW YORK, NY - At the Investor Summit on Climate Risk held at the United Nations headquarters today, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged investors to double their clean energy investments by 2020, a goal that will add momentum to the growing fossil fuel divestment campaign.

“I challenge investors to double at a minimum their clean energy investment by 2020,” said the Secretary General. “Sustainable clean energy is growing but not nearly fast enough to meet energy demand of what science says. The investor community is of critical importance if we are going to move from aspiration to action.”

“The arguments against divestment are all quickly falling away,” said Jamie Henn, Communications Director for 350.org. “The United Nations has made it clear that there is no way to meet the goals agreed to at the Paris Climate Summit if we keep investing in fossil fuels. Divesting from coal, oil and gas and reinvesting in just, sustainable energy solutions is one of the most important things an institution can do to help combat the climate crisis.”

Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, also made a powerful pitch for moving investments away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy. She said that the Divest-Invest movement has “cemented the idea” that carbon risk is a central economic issue that must be addressed immediately.

“We cannot continue to invest in coal…we cannot afford to look for new oil and gas sources,” she said. “By 2030, the window of investing in high carbon needs to close. As for capital, forget 2050, forget 2030. Where capital goes in the next five years will decide what kind of world we have.”

Former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg also spoke about the growing momentum towards sustainable investment. “Investors are getting pressure to invest money in environmentally friendly funds,” he told the audience. It’s still unknown whether Bloomberg himself has divested from fossil fuels.

In the last three years, the divestment movement has grown from a handful of college campuses to hundreds of the most important institutions in the world. Since the last Investor Summit on Climate Risk, a number of the largest investors represented at the summit–CalPERS, CalSTRS, and others–are committed to divest from coal, while other major financial institutions are offering fossil free investment opportunities.

At the Paris Climate Summit in December, 350.org announced that more than 500 institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets have made some form of divestment commitment. In the coming year, the campaign will continue to expand the effort around the world and take on larger targets, such as city and state pension funds.

The Secretary General also called on pension funds to take action. “Pension funds must use their influence as investors and shareholders to accelerate the rapid decarbonization of the economy,” he said.

If they don’t act, pension funds face can face huge risks to their portfolios. A recent report released by Advisor Partners revealed that in one year alone, New York City’s largest pension fund lost around $135 million from their holdings in the top 100 oil and gas companies. The Teacher’s Retirement System of the City of New York, representing over 200,000 teachers, educators and workers, incurred a 25 percent reduction in returns of their $60 billion fund from investments in oil and gas. NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer will speak at the Investor Summit this afternoon.

As the concepts of climate risk and the carbon bubble become a larger part of the mainstream financial discussion, divestment advocates are confident that the movement away from coal, oil and gas will continue to grow.

“Divestment used to be dismissed as a niche campaign,” said Henn. “Now, it’s one of the most important questions at the center of any portfolio.”

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350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. But solutions exist. All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350. This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.

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