The fossil fuel divestment movement was born on college and university campuses. Driven by social justice concerns student activism spawned a multi-trillion dollar sledge hammer. This rapidly burgeoning movement has grown to be a force to be reckoned with. In 2014 there was a doubling in the number of institutions that pledged to divest their fossil fuel holdings. In the last year this number exploded.
As explored in the 2015 Divest Invest report, there been a 50-fold increase in fossil fuel divestment over the course of the last year. To date, 430 institutions and 2,040 individuals across 43 countries together representing $2.6 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies. There are also thousands of ongoing divestment campaigns but nowhere is the energy of the movement felt more passionately than on University campuses.
In the last year 40 educational institutions have divested representing $130 billion in divestment. This includes Stanford, Glasgow and Australian National Universities. There are ten Canadian universities where students have voted to divest this includes Concordia University which was the first campus in Canada to divest.
Students have been pushing the divestment movement for years now and they show no sign of slowing down. In the Spring of this year Syracuse University announced that it was divesting university divests from fossil fuels. Chalmers became the first Swedish university has announced it is divesting from coal, oil and gas! Chalmers University of Technology has long been a university showing leadership on sustainability – and now they’re selling assets in fossil fuels worth almost 5 million SEK.
After a two year campaign students at the University of Maine managed to convince the Board of Trustees to unanimously approve a measure to divest all direct holdings from coal companies.
Although the divestment movement may have started on university campuses it is now embraced by the World Bank, the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the governor of the Bank of England.
A host of major pension funds have divested from fossil fuels. This includes $476 billion from the California General Assembly pension fund, the British Medical Association, Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global, AP4, the giant Swedish pension fund. Australia’s Capital Territory and the Australian city of Newcastle, home of coal, are also among those divesting from fossil fuels.
In late August, the Canadian Medical Association voted to divest it’s holdings in fossil fuels. The vote came at the end of a summer that saw both the British Columbia Government Employees Union and the United Church of Canada pass similar resolutions.
Investment Groups like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Axa said it will divest €500 million ($547 million) from companies most exposed to coal-related activities and triple its green investments to reach €3 billion ($3.28 billion) by 2020. The Guardian Media Group announced it would divest its £800m fund from coal, oil and gas,
A total of 140 philanthropic organizations in the philanthropic sector have pledged divest $10 billion from fossil fuels and dozens of faith groups are getting onboard.
The fossil fuel divestment movement is growing with investors, institutions and ordinary people. The divestment movement was born at colleges and universities. Massive investments of time and energy were invested by student at schools of every size, from big ivy league schools like Yale or Harvard, or small liberal arts colleges like Carleton or the New School.
Generations to come will remember that this is where students concerned about social justice spawned the divestment movement. Most importantly these schools will be remembered as the places from which a movement began that ultimately helped to stave off a climate catastrophe.
Make sure to see the article titled, “Comprehensive Green School Information and Resources.” It contains links to over 300 articles covering everything you need to know about sustainable academics, student eco-initiatives, green school buildings, and college rankings as well as a wide range of related information and resources.