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Many investors are already convinced: the Fllod Wall Street demo, 22nd September 2014. Photo: Resa Sunshine via Flickr.
Many investors are already convinced: the Fllod Wall Street demo, 22nd September 2014. Photo: Resa Sunshine via Flickr.
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Billionnaires against fossil fuels

Ruth Lumley / Trillion Fund

27th September 2014

The movement to divest from fossil fuels is gaining strength, writes Ruth Lumley, with $50 billion of institutional investment behind it. This week's news that almost $1 billion of Rockefeller money is moving from fossil fuels to clean energy shows that the world is changing faster than most ever imagined.

Records show that 181 institutions and local governments and 656 individuals representing over $50 billion dollars have pledged to divest to-date.

The latest fund to announce its divestment from fossil fuels is none other then the heir to the Rockefeller fortune, built on oil and coal.

Coinciding with today's UN Climate Change Summit in New York, the Rockefeller Brother's Fund said that not only would it pull vast sums of money out of fossil fuels, but that it would funnel the money into clean energy.

This latest announcement is further evidence that the divestment movement is unstoppably gaining traction and snowballing, fast.

Institutions across the globe have begun to pledge to divest from fossil fuels in support of the climate change campaign. This list includes the British Medical Association and the Church of Sweden.

The combined asset size of the 837 institutions and individuals committing to divest amounts to more than $50 billion, campaign group 350.org has calculated. 

$50 billion moving out of fossil fuels

The move towards rapid divestment form individuals and institutions has been a result of support for the climate change movement.

The demand for climate change action was evident on Sunday when an estimated 40,000 people took to the streets of London for the Peoples Climate March, which saw over 2,000 protests take place around the world in a bid to make world leaders take solid action towards a stopping climate change.

The movement also took New York by storm with an estimated 400,000 marchers, as well as Rio, Jakarta, Brisbane and hundreds of cities around the world.

In New York, many of the 50,000 students, faith groups, state contingents, and groups carrying banners representing cities or towns, also wore orange squares representing fossil fuel divestment.

Records show that 181 institutions and local governments and 656 individuals representing over $50 billion dollars have pledged to divest to-date.

That number includes the $860 million which will be redirected from fossil fuels by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The report indicates that divestment commitments have doubled in the eight months since January 2014.

But emissions keep on increasing

Yet carbon dioxide emissions, the main contributor to global warming, are set to rise again in 2014 - reaching a record high of 40 billion tonnes, according to research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The 2.5% projected rise in burning fossil fuels has been revealed by the Global Carbon Project, which is co-led in the UK by researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA and the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at theUniversity of Exeter.

The latest annual update of the Global Carbon Budget shows that total future CO2 emissions cannot exceed 1,200 billion tonnes - for a likely 66% chance of keeping average global warming under two degrees Celsius.

At the current rate of CO2 emissions, this 1,200 billion tonne CO2 'quota' would be used up in around 30 years. This means that there is just one generation before the safeguards to a two degrees limit may be breached.

'Unburnable' carbon

To avoid this, a team of international climate scientists have said that more than half of all fossil fuel reserves may need to be left in the ground and are essentially 'unburnable'.

Professor Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre at UEA, said: "The human influence on climate change is clear. "We need substantial and sustained reductions in CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels if we are to limit global climate change.

"We are nowhere near the commitments necessary to stay below two degrees celsius of climate change, a level that will be already challenging to manage for most countries around the world, even for rich nations."

Professor Pierre Friedlingstein, from the University of Exeter, said: "The time for a quiet evolution in our attitudes towards climate change is now over. Delaying action is not an option - we need to act together, and act quickly, if we are to stand a chance of avoiding climate change not long into the future, but within many of our own lifetimes.

He added: "We have already used two-thirds of the total amount of carbon we can burn, in order to keep warming below the crucial two degrees Celsius level. If we carry on at the current rate we will reach our limit in as little as 30 years' time - and that is without any continued growth in emission levels.

"The implication of no immediate action is worryingly clear - either we take a collective responsibility to make a difference, and soon, or it will be too late."

 


 

This article was originally published by Trillion Fund.

 

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