WHAT IS “DIVEST -INVEST”? Divestment is the opposite of investment. It is the removal of investment capital from stocks, bonds or other investments that generate income, and in this case – to divest out of oil, coal and gas companies. The Divest - Invest movement also recognizes that divestment alone is not enough and is also focused on the need for a massive increase in investments in climate solutions such as renewable energy, clean tech and energy efficiency.
The fossil fuel divest movement has been a bottom-up phenomenon, starting in 2011 with students in university campuses in the US calling on their administrations to divest endowments from coal and other fossil fuels. It has since grown to become the fastest growing social movement in history successfully catalysing most sectors of society from faith-based organisations (FBOs), foundations, governments, NGOs, educational institutions and pension funds.
All organisation that divest, recognise that it is no longer ethically acceptable to invest in fossil fuel companies that are destroying the planet and divesting is a targeted way to press for change by reducing fossil fuel companies’ economic, political and social license to operate.
The divestment movement, has relied not only on moral arguments, but pressure globally is building on institutional investors to assess their risk exposure to fossil-fuel companies, including the risk of tighter regulations, a carbon price, stranded assets and falling demand for fossil-fuels.
As of September 2016, 557 institutions and more than 50,000 individuals representing $3.7 trillion in assets made public commitments to divest their investments, at least partially from coal, oil and natural gas companies and to invest in climate solutions.Very recently, eleven Catholic organizations on four continents jointly and publicly divested from coal, oil and gas and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa passed a motion during its provincial Synod to divest from fossil fuels. Other examples include Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest that divested from coal and the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Council of Churches (WCC) with $68 million in assets, divested its holdings from fossil fuels and encouraged its more than 350 members representing over 500 million Christians worldwide to do the same.
More divest announcements are expected in December 2016 to show the continued exponential growth of the movement.
The divest-invest movement also calls for investors to accelerate investments in clean energy solutions and help shift the trillions. According to a recent CERES report, an additional $44 trillion (or a four-fold jump) in clean energy investments is needed through 2050 to build a low carbon future. The gap between what is needed to build a sustainable energy future is not closing fast enough.
What Role Do Faith-Based Organisation (FBOs) Play?
In the face of past moral crises, such as ending slavery or apartheid in South Africa, religious groups have mobilised millions and have used divestment as a tool to develop a public consensus around the moral illegitimacy of the status quo and to build political support for dramatic action. While the total investment value of the faith sector is not known, the investment decisions they make and the example they set matter a great deal.
In 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said that religions were the third largest category of investor, owning up to eight percent of the world’s habitable land and five percent of commercial forests.The faith sector also contributes to more than half of the world’s schools, and offers moral and spiritual guidance to approximately 85 percent of all people.
Many religious traditions share similar values regarding the ethical use of financial resources and across the faith sector. FBOs are also united by a moral responsibility to be in the right relationship with the earth, to act as responsible care-takers of the earth, and to preserve its health and resources for future generations. Around the globe they are taking action to divest away from fossil fuels and they are investing in climate solutions.