KATOWICE, Poland, December 13, 2018 (ENS) – Over 1,000 institutions with managed investments worth US$$8 trillion have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies because they are driving the climate crisis. The announcement from nonprofits campaigning for divestment, comes as the UN’s annual climate conference, COP24 in Katowice draws to a close.

The 1,000th institution to divest was the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, which manages France’s public sector pensions, savings, and investments worth €173 billion (USD$196 billion). It has announced that from 2019 it will no longer invest in companies that make more than 10 percent of their business from coal. This implies that the top 200 companies in the coal industry are now effectively blacklisted.

Eric Lombard, managing director of Caisse des Dépôts said, “The recent IPCC report recalls the urgent need to intervene to contain global warming. The institutions need to take responsibility and help companies to develop a activity consistent with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Caisse des Dépôts will provide them with support and an operational framework.”

A Standard Chartered Bank branch (Photo credit unknown)

Standard Chartered Bank announced in November that it would stop funding coal-fired power plants. The British multinational banking and financial services company based in London, operates a network of more than 1,200 branches and outlets across 70 countries and employs around 87,000 people.

“We will not directly finance any new coal-fired power plant projects, including expansions, in any location,” Standard Chartered pledged in a statement.

Standard Chartered becomes the first Asia-focused bank to rule out new coal development in the world’s biggest region for extraction and burning of the fossil fuel for energy.

The move means that the bank will back out of three deals to finance coal power plants in Vietnam, the world’s third largest coal hotspot.

The bank revealed its intention to move away from coal when it withdrew from a financing initiative for a massive coal plant in Vietnam in April after pressure from green groups.

Standard Chartered has loaned US$1.8 billion to coal projects since 2010, including US$820 million to projects that added 10.6 gigawatts of additional coal power capacity, according to data from the Australian nonprofit Market Forces.

In Katowice, Standard Chartered pledged to work with four other global banks to measure the climate alignment of their lending portfolios, and to explore ways to develop methods and tools to align their lending towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The commitment will see Standard Chartered, ING, BBVA, BNP Paribas and Société Générale ensure that they and their clients are supporting a shift from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy in line with science-based scenarios. The five banks are calling on other banks to make the same commitment.

Standard Chartered Group Chief Executive Bill Winters said, “Achieving the Paris Agreement requires ambitious, collective effort; we are calling on governments to recognize this as they meet in Katowice this week. Standard Chartered is committed to working transparently with our clients, other banks and stakeholders to develop the tools the banking sector needs to assess our own contribution to climate goals.”

The latest commitments propelling the campaign to over 1,000 institutions include:
AG2R la mondiale (US$114 billion)
Australian Vision Super Fund (US$9 billion)
Brandeis University (US$997 million)

The divestments have been propelled by committed people risking arrest to bring their cause to public attention.

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Yale students demonstrate outside the university’s Investments Office, Dec. 7, 2018 (Photo courtesy Fossil Free Yale)

On December 7, Yale University police arrested 48 Yale students and New Haven community members who held an occupation of the Investments Office demanding that Yale direct its fund managers to divest the university’s endowment from fossil fuel companies.

This is the largest number of people ever arrested for a university fossil fuel divestment action.

More than 350 community members gathered outside the building and cheered on those who sat in as they were escorted out by police.

“The funds for our education should not come from environmental destruction and predatory debt,” said Martin Man, a member of Fossil Free Yale. “These investments are immoral. They signal that the University sees no issue with the hypocrisy of supporting and profiting from fossil fuel extraction, climate injustice, and neo-colonial exploitation while priding itself in its climate science research and education of social justice.”

Issuing a report that details the history of the “divestment” movement at COP24 in Katowice, May Boeve, executive director of the nonprofit climate advocacy group 350.org said, “When this movement started in 2012, we aimed to catalyze a truly global shift in public attitudes to the fossil fuel industry, and people’s willingness to challenge the institutions that financially support it. While diplomats at the UN climate talks are having a hard time making progress, our movement has changed how society perceives the role of fossil fuel corporations and is actively keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”

The report details that since 2012 the number of institutions committing to fossil fuel divestment has increased rapidly, as has the total number of dollars of those who committed to sell their fossil fuel investments.

Boeve said, “The reach and impact of this global movement is huge – major institutions with almost US$$8 trillion in assets have committed to divest from the likes of Exxon and Shell.”

“The momentum has been driven by a people-powered grassroots movement. It’s ordinary people pushing their local institutions to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry – the industry most responsible for the current climate crisis,” she said.

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Melbourne March for Our future was a snap climate action organized a week after Adani announced they were proceeding with the Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin under self-financing. Dec. 8, 2018 Melbourne, Australia (Photo by Takver)

Nico Haeringer, an organizer who supports divestment groups globally, at 350.org said, “Getting our public institutions to go fossil free is something that we can all do. Whether it is our university, our municipal government, or our pension fund we can turn off the money tap to polluting industries and we can force them to make better choices like investing in local renewable energy. It’s something that we see happening everywhere, with a momentum all of its own.”

The 350.org report shows:
– The exponential rate of growth in the number of institutions and total funds divested from fossil fuels companies;
– The global breakdown of divestments including numerous commitments on every continent;
– The sectoral breakdown of divestment actions, which demonstrates the moral leadership of the faith sector on the issue of divestment;
– Politically significant commitments such as those of the sovereign wealth funds of Ireland, Norway and city divestments of Cape Town and New York.

The first fossil fuel divestment commitment made since the movement was launched was made by Unity College, based in the U.S. state of Maine, in 2012.

On the momentum for divestment since 2013 Haeringer said, “This is a moral movement as well as a financial one. Just five years ago we had 181 divestment commitments and US$50 billion shifted away from polluting industries, and today we’re over 1,000 and approaching US$8 trillion dollars.”

“Despite the enormous progress and the spike of divestment commitments, we need hundreds more to move their money out of dangerous fossil fuels. Massive pension funds like New York State, to moral authorities like the Vatican, to iconic institutions like the Nobel Foundation, to premiere universities like Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge, and U.S.-based insurance giants AIG and Berkshire Hathaway,” said Haeringer. “The tide is turning and the time to divest is now.”

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