In a letter to investors Tuesday, Larry Fink, CEO of money management firm BlackRock, announced the company would prioritize the climate crisis in deciding on investments and strategies going forward—a major victory for the environmental movement.
The new direction for BlackRock, the largest investment firm in the world which manages assets of around $6.96 trillion, is the result of a hard-fought effort by a group of dedicated activists, tweeted 350 Action co-founder Bill McKibben.
"This is a massive victory for a small band of fighters," said McKibben.
"It gives us enormous confidence as we take on the giant banks," he added. "When we start to fight we start to win."
Biggest news in a long time. After a ton of pressure, Blackrock--which owns more fossil fuel stock than anyone on earth--announces it will put 'climate change at the center of its investment strategy.' A huge--if by no means final--win for activists!https://t.co/OKiBykJf5t— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) January 14, 2020
As Common Dreams reported last week, a new campaign called "Stop the Money Pipeline" is aimed at stopping financial support for the fossil fuel industry and has BlackRock as one of its primary targets.
Fink says in his letter to investors that he believes "we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance."
"The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance," Fink wrote.
According to the New York Times:
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The firm, he wrote, would also introduce new funds that shun fossil fuel-oriented stocks, move more aggressively to vote against management teams that are not making progress on sustainability, and press companies to disclose plans "for operating under a scenario where the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees is fully realized."
Diana Best, senior strategist for the Sunrise Project, said in a statement that Fink's letter was a welcome first step.
"BlackRock beginning its shift of capital out of fossil fuels, including today's divestment of coal in its actively managed funds, is a fantastic start and instantly raises the bar for competitors such as Vanguard and State Street Global Advisors," said Best. "We will be looking for additional leadership from the company in, as Larry Fink put it, 'fundamentally reshaping finance to deal with climate change,' including additional shifts of capital out of fossil fuels."
Sunrise Project is a key player in the BlackRock's Big Problem campaign.
Climate advocates celebrated the letter as a victory for years of activism and protest, but warned that the firm would have to be held accountable for its behavior going forward.
"BlackRock's coal divestment decision is yet another significant blow to the already dying market, yet major banks like Barclays continue to prop up coal-heavy companies," said ShareAction campaign manager Jeanne Martin. "If BlackRock is serious about its commitment to phase out thermal coal, it should use its voting rights to get major coal financiers to do the same."
In a statement, the Sierra Club's campaign representative Ben Cushing said BlackRock's decision was a watershed moment while warning the letter needs to be backed up by immediate and concrete action to divest from dirty investments.
"As the biggest financial institution in the world, BlackRock's announcement today is a major step in the right direction and a testament to the power of public pressure calling for climate action," said Cushing. "But BlackRock will continue to be the world's largest investor in coal, oil, and gas."
"It is time to turn off the money pipeline to dirty fossil fuels for good," Cushing added.