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 LaDuke, Josh 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.
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:
Norway made all its $ on oil, but now dumping fossil fuel stocks. The Rockefeller of countries http://t.co/V0N7trXwOr
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) February 5, 2015
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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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.