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Africa/Global: Fossil-Fuel Divestment Growing

AfricaFocus Bulletin
November 11, 2014 (141111)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

The latest international scientific statement on the disastrous and potentially irreversible damage from climate change is unambiguous, as is the imperative for drastic action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But political obstacles to moving from rhetoric to action are virtually unchanged, despite massive demonstrations coinciding with the UN climate summit in late September. The dispersed fossil-fuel divestment movement, however, although still too small to curb the industry, is growing rapidly.

This AfricaFocus highlights recent developments in the fastgrowing fossil-fuel divestment movement aimed at countering the dominance of the fossil-fuel energy and its destructive effects on the planet.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, not sent out by email but available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/cc1411a.php, contains two short reports on the latest IPCC climate report in accessible language by Joe Romm, editor of the Climate Progress blog and by Martin Khor, the executive director of the South Centre. It also contains a "summary of the summary," that is, highlighted points in the original wording extracted from the 40-page Approved Summary for Policymakers.

For a commentary on the September UN summit and climate demonstrations in New York, see Mithika Mwenda, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA; http://www.pacja.org), "New York Climate Summits Were a Contest Between Leaders and People," October 7, 2014 http://allafrica.com/stories/201410101222.html

Eight of ten countries most at risk from climate change are in Africa. See http://tinyurl.com/kkaqvno (Independent, Nov. 7)

For talking points and previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the environment and climate change, visit
http://www.africafocus.org/intro-env.php

Ebola Perspectives

[AfricaFocus is regularly monitoring and posting links on Ebola on social media. A few are included here. For additional links, see http://www.facebook.com/AfricaFocus]

As the spread of Ebola from the few cases in the United States appears to be stopped, and the pace of epidemic has eased in Liberia, the worst-affected country, news coverage has diminished. But the epidemic is far from over, and those actively fighting Ebola warn that complacency, further slowing the pace of the still sluggish international response, would be a deadly error.

Among recent updates:

Mali succeeding in limiting spread from initial case New York Times, Nov. 11, http://tinyurl.com/n4blxxv

Cases rising rapidly in Sierra Leone (Reuters, Nov. 6, http://tinyurl.com/l2e7aw4; Guardian, Nov. 10, http://tinyurl.com/ks6ohah) and in Guinea (NPR, Nov. 7, http://tinyurl.com/k9mvnxh)

Not enough to stop Ebola, must build health systems for future (NBC, Nov. 9, http://tinyurl.com/pmtlmcn)

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

November Divest Digest: Global Divestment is for Pioneers:

Fossil Free USA, November 7, 2014

http://gofossilfree.org/ / direct URL:
http://tinyurl.com/oshc3u8

Wide-ranging roundup of new divestment initiatives, successes. A few excerpts below. Go to link for more, including photos

18+ US Campuses Out To Unkoch Themselves (USA)

On November 3, 2014, over 20 campuses across the United States stood up and demanded their university administrations reconsider the funding they receive from major corporate donors. This pushback directly targets the correlation between funders' money and their intentions to embed their own preferences and interests into student research and education.

Student actions ranged from teach-ins, the filing of a Freedom of Information Act to disclose funders and allocations, and protests to raise student awareness and exert pressure on universities to extricate themselves from the influence of major corporate donors such as the Koch Brothers. Greenpeace has documented that over $50 million has been sent by Koch industries from 2005-2012.

...

Victoria University First In New Zealand To Divest (NZ)

On November 2, 2014, 350 Aotearoa congratulated Victoria University on its decision to become the first university in New Zealand to divest from fossil fuels. According to their Vice Chancellor Grant Guilford, "The research strongly suggests that unless the world reduces its reliance on fossil fuels, climate change and ocean acidification will have severe impacts on life on land and in our oceans. Other factors taken into account were the business continuity risks from sea level rises to Victoria's low lying Pipitea Campus, and the investment risks of 'stranded assets' in the fossil fuels sector. It is important… that the University aligns its investment decisions with the results of its scientific research and its public stance on climate change while it continues to work on actively reducing its own carbon footprint."

...

Glasgow University First In Europe To Divest (SCT)

This past October, Glasgow University became the first university in Europe to divest. The decision followed a 12 month- long student-led campaign involving over 1,300 students and resulting in the withdrawal of over 18m pounds of funds from fossil fuels. The Secretary of the University of Glasgow explains the decision, "The University recognises the devastating impact that climate change may have on our planet, and the need for the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Over the coming years we will steadily reduce our investment in the fossil fuel extraction industry, while also taking steps to reduce our carbon consumption."

...

Vermont Seeks To Pass First In The Nation Legislation For Divestment

In Montpelier, Vermont, Climate change activists are working with their state legislature to divest their state from fossil fuels. This is marked as a major breakthrough in particular because lawmaker Sen. Anthony Pollina has become the first in the United States to introduce legislation to pass this kind of law. For more on the story, go to http://tinyurl.com/l9k99yl


Measuring the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

Arabella Advisors

[Excerpts: full report with graphs and lists of institutions and individuals divesting available at links below]

http://www.arabellaadvisors.com/ direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/ol5omga

The global movement to divest from fossil fuels has mobilized billions of dollars in capital and engaged a broad segment of society to accelerate the just transition to a clean-energy economy. As of September 19, 2014, 181 institutions and local governments and 656 individuals representing over $50 billion in assets have pledged to divest from fossil fuels. These institutions and individuals come from a diverse range of sectors and backgrounds, including universities, faithbased organizations, philanthropies, health-care providers, local governments, and NGOs.

The movement to divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean alternatives has gained remarkable speed. It was born in 2011 on just half a dozen college campuses where the students called on their administrations to divest endowments from coal and other fossil fuels. Today, a diverse group of students, philanthropies, and grassroots and environmental organizations from around the globe are driving the movement.

Since January 2014, the number of commitments by campuses, churches, cities, states, hospitals, pension funds, and other institutions—both in the United States and abroad—have more than doubled, from 74 to 181. Since seventeen foundations controlling nearly $1.8 billion committed to divest in January, the number of divesting philanthropic organizations has swelled to 71, representing $4.2 billion in assets. In addition, eleven leading environmental organizations have also pledged to divest (see appendix for a full list), totaling over $725 million in assets. The movement has also grown to include a diverse group of individuals. The inaugural cohort of individual pledges boasts over $2.5 billion in assets.

The following report provides additional detail about the scope and scale of fossil fuel divestment commitments made to date. This report was prepared by Arabella Advisors, working with a team of leaders from the global fossil fuel divestment movement, to provide additional detail about the scope and scale of divestment commitments made. Arabella compiled the data, conducted the technical analysis, and drafted the body of the report; judgments about standards relating to recognition or inclusion in the report of public divestment commitments were made by a committee of movement leaders including: Divest-Invest Philanthropy, Divest-Invest Individual, 350.org, the Wallace Global Fund, and the California Student Sustainability Coalition.

Below, we include a description of the methodology the working group used to gather data and report on divestment commitments. We also highlight ongoing efforts to gather more data about the nature of commitments made.

Total Assets Divested

The common definition of a Divest-Invest commitment is a pledge to divest from the top fossil fuel companies within five years and to move those assets into clean energy investments. As the movement has spread, participants have tailored the timing and sequence of commitments to their particular circumstances. The working group has recognized the variety of these circumstances and has designed this process to allow institutions to meet both their fiduciary and moral responsibilities.

To assess the scale of divestment commitments made globally, the working group measured the assets under management by organizations that committed to divestment. It has gathered data on asset sizes from a number of sources. For foundations, universities, faith-based organizations, and other public charities, it has compiled data from their most recent public financial report or Tax Form 990. Note that in most instances, the most recently available Form 990 was from 2012. As such, the asset sizes it used do not account for potential growth over the last two years. Where information on total assets was not publicly available, the working group counted an organization's total revenue from its most recent publicly-available financial records or annual report.

For government commitments, it based the asset size on the size of the city or county's pension fund, unless it specifically indicated it had divested other assets (e.g., cash reserves). Where this information was not publicly available, it based total asset size on the entity's most recent annual budget (operating plus capital budget).

Individual Commitments

The working group relied upon self-reported data from individual commitments to determine the number and scope of divest-invest pledges. Individuals agreed to a standard pledge, and most completed a brief survey. The standard pledge (available at http://divestinvest.org/individual) states:

  1. I will make no new investments in the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies [as defined by the Carbon Tracker 200].
  2. I will sell my existing assets tied to these oil, gas, and coal investments within three to five years.
  3. I will invest in the new energy economy.

The pledge does allow individuals to retain shares in fossil fuel companies for the purpose of shareholder advocacy.

Given that information about individual assets is private, we have relied on self-reported data gathered by DivestInvest through a survey it administers when individuals sign the pledge. To respect the privacy of individuals taking the pledge, all responses remain anonymous and responses about their personal wealth were reported using the following ranges:

  • $100,000 or less
  • Between $100,000 and $500,000
  • Between $500,000 and $1 million
  • Between $1 and $5 million
  • Between $5 and $10 million
  • Over $10 million (individuals reporting personal assets over $10 million have the option of listing their specific asset size.)

To calculate individual commitments, we have totaled the median of each asset value range. For example, if six individuals reported assets between $5 million and $10 million, the total is six times $7.5 million. Those reporting asset sizes over $10 million we asked to disclose their specific asset total.

Constituencies Represented

Arabella tracked publicly-available data on the constituency represented by each institution in order to capture the number of individuals encompassed in institutional commitments. Currently, the 181 institutions and governments that have pledged to divest represent more than 520 million individuals.

Our metrics for constituency include:

  • Educational institution: Number of students and employees (where available)
  • Government: City or county population
  • Faith-based Organizations: Number of congregants/members
  • Healthcare Institutions: Number of employees
  • NGO: Number of members

Investment Commitments

To measure commitments to invest in clean energy solutions (defined as renewable energy, energy
efficiency, and clean tech), Arabella tracked the number of institutions and individuals that have made a principled commitment to invest in the next five years. So far, 715 individuals and institutions have pledged to invest in clean energy solutions, or 85 percent of all pledgers. It will take some time for institutions and individuals to develop an investment strategy that meets their financial goals while capturing the opportunity of clean energy. As such, we have limited information about the nature and amount of investments in clean energy at this time. Clarifying the nature of these investments will be a priority area for data collection and reporting going forward. Arabella has developed a baseline survey to capture this investment data and recommends administering it annually to all pledgers. We are currently using this survey to gather data about foundation investments.

Appendix A: Institutional Commitments

Governments

  • Amherst, MA
  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • Bayfield, WI
  • Berkeley, CA
  • Boulder, CO
  • Boxtel, Netherlands
  • Brisbane, CA
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Concord, MA
  • Dane County, WI
  • Dunedin, New Zealand
  • Eugene, OR
  • Framingham, MA
  • Ithaca, NY
  • Madison, WI
  • New London, CT
  • Northampton, MA
  • Oakland, California
  • Orebro, Sweden
  • Portland, OR
  • Providence, RI
  • Provincetown, MA
  • Richmond, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Santa Clara Valley Water District
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Santa Monica, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • State College, PA
  • Sudbury, MA
  • Truro, MA

Philanthropic Institutions

[see original report for list]

Educational Institutions

  • College of the Atlantic
  • Foothill-De Anza Community College Foundation
  • Green Mountain College
  • Hampshire College
  • Naropa University
  • Peralta Community College District
  • Pitzer College
  • Prescott College
  • San Francisco State University Foundation
  • Stanford University
  • Sterling College
  • Students' Society of McGill University
  • Unity College
  • University of Dayton

Religious Institutions

[see original report for list]

Non-governmental Organizations

[see original report for list]

Appendix B: Individual Commitments

[see original report for list]


Divest!
Move Your Money out of Fossil Fuels

http://moveyourmoney.org.uk/

[Excerpts from introduction. Go to web site for full report and actions for people holding accounts with banks in UK.]

Introduction: The problem and solution

Maybe you don't have any active investments or wouldn't call yourself an investor. But here's something you may not know: you are an investor, and your money is doing something right now. Even the money you have sitting in your bank at this very moment is being moved around and is making an impact on the world's financial and economic landscape.

Banks make decisions about what to invest your money in without consulting you, and perhaps most worryingly, they may not even want to tell you what they're doing with it. High street banks have for a long time been investing unfathomably large sums of money into the planet's most precarious commodities: oil, coal and gas. For decades fossil fuel investments have underpinned pensions, ISAs and many other major investments. This is because demand for fossil fuels is high across the globe, exponentially rising, and traditionally provides good financial returns. So what's the problem?

Oil, coal and gas investments are dangerous. Global reliance on fossil fuels has led to rapid climate change, with the UN declaring it as an urgent priority for governments to tackle. Scientists have estimated that if we are to avoid the catastrophic consequences of exceeding global warming levels of 2 degrees Celsius, we must drastically decrease the amount of fossil fuels we use.

But this isn't just an environmental issue, its also a financial one. Banks have invested heavily in an asset that will, at some point in the near future, lose a lot if not all of its value. Recent research shows that to avoid the catastrophic social and environmental impacts of irreversible climate change, around two thirds of all fossil fuel reserves are effectively 'unburnable', and must stay in the ground.
This is what's called the 'carbon bubble', and when it bursts it will be disastrous for those invested in fossil fuels.

And this is set to happen sooner than you might think. In the UK alone, HSBC Holdings, Barclays, Santander, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group have in excess of 66 billion UK pounds invested in oil, gas and coal extraction. That's a lot of capital exposed to the risk of the carbon bubble, and if your money is in those banks, it's your money that's supporting this industry. Yet despite banks' massive investment, the British public are turning their back on fossil fuels.

The latest Great British Money survey conducted earlier this year found that 39% of adults in the UK would be unhappy if they found out their money was being used to fund fossil fuel developments, and over 1 in 3 of those surveyed (36%) said that they would like their bank to stop investing in fossil fuels.

Now, with Move Your Money, you have the chance to take back control of your savings and choose how they shape the world around us. We're launching a campaign to encourage everyone with any money in their bank account - however much or little - to join our call to action to offer their banks a simple ultimatum: to disclose their investments in fossil fuels and vow to take your money out of fossil fuels, or you'll take your money out of their accounts.

Climate change and the carbon bubble are urgent issues that need to be addressed. But the great news is that the number of people divesting and taking their money out of institutions that finance climate change is snowballing. Early adopters and pioneers of the divestment movement have worked hard to gain traction, and it is increasingly being recognised as an urgent financial, environmental and economic issue. One of the founders of the divestment movement is 350.org, a global campaign group founded by Bill McKibben, campaigns in nearly every country in the world to divest public institutions everywhere from fossil fuels.

This is the important part –ndash; you can choose where your money is invested. What many people don't know is that divestment is not just something that can be done by multi-million pound funds, trusts, foundations and venture capitalists. You can help change the world through the power of investing, no matter what the size of your piggy bank.

Impact of your action and the Case for Divestment

So what does it mean to divest and what will you achieve by doing it? The divestment movement has been garnering unprecedented media attention in recent months. This is partly due to ever more radical public protests and demonstrations, that have been raising awareness of the dangers of the carbon bubble and the importance of taking action to divest now.

The global energy mix is at a crucial crossroads. In 2012 over 66 billion UK pounds was invested by UK banks into fossil fuel extraction alone. Despite these gargantuan financial institutions being aware that they are bankrolling the destruction of our planet, they have shown little desire to make their investments more ethical and sustainable. The action taken by banks and investors today will influence the next generation's energy resources, and worryingly, rather than blanket-investing in clean, renewable and infinite energy resources like solar, wind and hydro, UK banks are looking to finance another shortsighted fossil fuel boom by pouring investments into dangerous fracking.

...

The message is clear: in order to make banks re-direct their financial resources away from the fossil fuel industry, the public demand for cleaner investments needs to be heard. That is what the divestment movement is all about.

We're now reaching a tipping point in divestment which could see a domino effect of investors and institutions vowing to make their money a force for good. ... [document continues with examples, particularly from UK]

It may seem like a drop in the ocean, but the power of collective personal action cannot be underestimated. Making your voice heard can and does change the flow of public and private finances. It can create a path for a clean energy future and one that makes financial sense too. If we all act together.
...


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org


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