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Divestment Day in Amsterdam. (Photo: 350.org/flickr/cc)

'Age of Burn What You Like' is Over: UN Makes Landmark Call for Divestment

Deirdre Fulton

The United Nations body charged with guiding and implementing international climate policy has thrown its weight behind the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, lending "moral authority" to a campaign aimed at stemming global warming, the Guardian reported on Sunday.

"We support divestment as it sends a signal to companies, especially coal companies, that the age of 'burn what you like, when you like' cannot continue," said Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

World leaders are meeting this December in Paris to hammer out a sweeping, international climate agreement.

"Everything we do is based on science and the science is pretty clear that we need a world with a lot less fossil fuels," Nuttall told the Guardian. "We have lent our own moral authority as the UN to those groups or organizations who are divesting. We are saying 'we support your aims and ambitions because they are fairly and squarely our ambition,' which is to get a good deal in Paris."

Climate activists like 350.org's Bill McKibben were pleased by the development:

However, Oscar Reyes, of the Institute for Policy Studies, urged the UNFCCC to avoid hypocrisy with its own Green Climate Fund—established to redistribute money from the developed to the developing world in order to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change:

As last month's Global Divestment Day demonstrated, the call to divest from the fossil fuel industry is spreading.

According to Bloomberg, Oxford University will consider on Monday "whether to become the most prominent academic institution to join a growing movement in favor of divesting from publicly traded fossil fuel companies."

And Divest Harvard is gearing up for a week of divestment actions in April, calling on Harvard University to:

  • immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies;
  • immediately divest direct holdings (currently $19.6 million) from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies;
  • divest indirect holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies within 5 years, and reinvest in socially responsible funds.

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