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First Country in the World Dumps Fossil Fuels As Divestment Movement Heats Up

Back in 2012, Bill McKibben with fellow activists including Naomi Klein, Winona LaDukeJosh Fox and Reverend Lennox Yearwood began a nationwide tour to promote fossil fuel divestment—that is, selling off your shares in fossil fuel companies–in an effort to combat climate change.

"Norway made all its money on oil, but now it's dumping its fossil fuel stocks. It's the Rockefeller of countries," said Bill McKibben. Photo credit: Fossil Free

With action in Congress impossible, McKibben saw college campuses—known for being laboratories of democracy—as ground zero in the campaign for divestment. With his 'Do the Math' campaign in sold-out concert halls across America, McKibben and others were able to launch Fossil Free, an international network of divestment campaigns. It's a project of the larger organization 350.org. Flash forward three years and the movement has made impressive strides.

Fossil Free lists divestment commitments from 24 colleges and universities, 37 cities, 2 counties, 69 religious institutions, 30 foundations and 13 other institutions—most notably the Rockefeller Brothers Fund last September. That's right, the organization endowed by the co-founder of the Standard Oil Company has committed to fossil fuel divestment. Additionally, the international Invest-Divest coalition announced last September divestment commitments for $45 billion in assets from nearly 700 financial institutions.

In January, Goddard College in Vermont, University of Bedfordshire in the UK, California Institute of the Arts, University of Maine and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden joined the growing number of colleges and universities that think it's wrong to profit from the destruction of the planet.

The top 500 or so university endowments hold nearly $400 billion. "Add in the big state pension funds and church, synagogue and mosque investments, and we’re well on our way" to threatening the "viability of the fossil fuel industry's business model," according to Fossil Free. Even if we only move "one percent of the $400 billion in university endowments towards sustainable alternatives," that's $4 billion worth of new investments in renewable energy, says the rapidly growing nonprofit.

The United Methodist Church has now joined the more than 60 religious organizations taking a stand. The church's pension fund will screen coal from its investments. “Our denomination is on the front lines of climate change mitigation and recovery efforts worldwide," said Reverend Jenny Phillips, coordinator of Fossil Free UMC. "It doesn’t make sense for our pensions and ministries to depend on the flourishing of the companies that are wreaking this havoc.” And now, Fossil Free is urging Pope Francis to divest, as well.

February brought even more excitement for the global divestment campaign. Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global reported yesterday that a total of 114 companies had been dumped because of their risk to the climate, according to The Guardian. While the wealth fund moved billions of dollars in assets out of shares in fossil fuel companies, it still has billions invested in other fossil fuel companies.

Still, as the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, its move to divest has a large impact. Here's a tweet by Bill McKibben yesterday sharing the news:

The wealth fund's announcement arrives on the heels of the Norwegian government's announcement on Feb. 4 that, by 2030, it will cut its carbon emissions by at least 40 percent compared to 1990 levels.

All of this news brings strong momentum to Global Divestment Day. On Feb. 13-14, people all over the world are showing their commitment to taking on the fossil fuel industry. From South Africa to Mexico, Bangladesh to Benin, there will be events all over the world and there are so many reasons to join the fight.

Watch Fossil Free's video for Global Divestment Day:

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