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Climate activists launched Global Divestment Day on Friday to call for the world's institutions to pull their funds from the fossil fuel industry. (Photo: GoFossilFree.org)

Global Divestment Day Kicks Off With Call for 'Clean Energy Future'

Leading institutions must both pull their funds from the industry and reinvest in sustainable energy, campaigners say

Nadia Prupis

Climate activists worldwide mobilized Friday for what they're calling Global Divestment Day, which will see more than 400 actions and protests calling on top institutions to pull their financial support for coal, oil, and gas companies.

Photos from actions around the world were pouring into the GoFossilFree website, the online hub for the fossil fuel divestment movement. The @GoFossilFree Twitter account was also alive with updates:

February 13 and 14 will mark a "turning point" for the movement to end funding for fossil fuels, according to organizers, as activists will target the industry's key allies, including some of the largest banks in South Africa—drawing a connection between the climate movement and the take-down of Apartheid in the 1980s.

Elsewhere, students will take part in sit-ins and flash mobs, targeting institutions in the U.S., the U.K., Nepal, Japan, France, Ukraine, and the Philippines, according to the environmental organization 350.org.

"The fossil fuel divestment movement has grown exponentially over the last two years–now it’s going global," said 350 executive director May Boeve. "From the Pacific Islands to South Africa, from the United States to Germany, people are standing up and challenging the power of the fossil fuel industry. We know that fossil fuels are the past and clean energy is the future."

The action comes on the heels of a mass sit-in at Harvard University on Thursday, where students began an open-ended occupation of Massachusetts Hall, which houses the office of President Drew Faust, to demand that the university divest from the industry.

"Our action today is not just about climate change, but about larger issues of injustice," said Harvard student Sima Atri, who took part in the sit-in. "We refuse to stay silent as Harvard profits from business practices that are causing disproportionate harms to already marginalized communities."

The movement will not focus solely on divestment. The activists are also calling for the institutions in their spotlight to re-invest the money they pull from fossil fuels into sustainable energy solutions, "with a particular focus on initiatives that support communities most impacted by climate change and the dirty energy based economy," according to 350.

Yossi Cadan, senior campaigner for the movement, explains: "The existing high carbon development model largely benefits powerful industries and the wealthier segments of society while poor and vulnerable communities continue to carry the brunt of climate impacts. We know climate change is the biggest global threat of the 21st century leading health organizations to join the call for divestment."

Some 180 institutions have already pledged to pull their funds from fossil fuels. However, the dirty energy industry is not likely to go down without a fight. As the Guardian reported Wednesday, the lead-up to the weekend saw lobbyists for the American Energy Alliance, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and other groups with links to the industry releasing reports and statements on the virtues of coal, oil, and gas; the AEA said the capacities of those fossil fuels are "a bedrock of modern life."

But science disagrees. According to a groundbreaking study released in January by the University College London, in order to prevent catastrophic climate change, 92 percent of U.S. coal, all Arctic oil and gas, and a majority of Canadian tar sands must stay "in the ground."


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