Huge momentum on divesting from fossil fuels as unprecedented faith based commitments join a strong statement against shareholder engagement strategies
11 September, 2019 Cape Town, South Africa: Working together over two days at the global ‘Financing the Future Summit’ advocates made several commitments that give real power to the fight against climate change, and build on the momentum of the divestment movement that has already seen 11 trillion US dollars of total assets pledged to divestment from fossil fuels.
Concluding today, Financing the Future brought together over 300 leaders from 44 countries, representing diverse organisations working at the intersection of climate justice and social justice: faith-based institutions, governments, NGOs, foundations, academia, environmental and human rights advocates, social impact investing, healthcare, social enterprise and other values-driven institutions.
The Summit also released the Cape Town Declaration, drawing a red-line under so-called ‘engagement’ based approaches to fossil fuel companies for investors.
From the faith sectoral delegation came commitments to drive dramatic pronouncements: a divest-invest fatwa by the Fiqh Council of North America; a commitment from the Hindu America Foundation, the Art of Living Foundation, and GreenFaith, to create an investment index consistent with dharmic values, excluding investments in fossil fuel, deforestation, and industrial animal agriculture sectors; and 22 new Christian divestment commitments reported by the Global Climate Catholic Movement and UK-based Operation Noah.
“This summit was a real rallying call for us to pick up the pace on investments in renewable energy. There was a sense of power in the room, with multi-faith leaders, scientists, campaigners, investors, and economists working together to drive the impact we need to see if we are to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees,” said Vibhuti Garg, Energy Economist with International Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), “But there was also a real sense of urgency, from hearing the testimonials of the long battles against fossil fuel expansion, battles clearly being fought for survival. We can no longer afford to consider further investments in fossil fuels.”
This urgency was echoed by others at the Summit: “Fossil fuel divestment and clean energy investment is now more important than ever. Investors, with their trillions in assets, have the power to move faster than governments and catalyze the transition by shifting their capital out of the problems and into the solutions now. In so doing, they steel the backbone of politicians and policymakers to accelerate their own progress. One of the biggest barriers to progress on divestment is the entrenched shareholder engagement community on climate — most visibly represented by the $34 trillion investor platform Climate Action 100+ — which continues to insist it has leverage to shift the business plans of the fossil fuel majors in line with Paris goals,” said Thuli Makama, Africa Senior Adviser at Oil Change International, one of the main proponents of the Cape Town Declaration.
The Cape Town Declaration is calling on the Climate Action 100+ to immediately demand phaseout plans from each of the fossil fuel companies they engage in. The Declaration ties together the urgent need to deliver clean, renewable access to the developing world with the urgent need to call out the fossil fuel industry driving climate change.
Samia Omar Bwana, from deCOALonise Africa, a group campaigning against a large coal-fired power plant in Lamu, Kenya and speaker at the Summit said, “Why invest in a dying industry that will be irrelevant in 15 years? To investors looking at Africa, I say think of the future. If you want your money’s worth then put your money into renewables in Africa, into our solar and wind resources that have not been utilised. Don’t give us a reason to tell you to divest, invest instead in things we need.”
Speaking at the closing of the summit, 17 year old Ayakha Melithafa from YouLead, South Africa, called on delegates to support the global strikes taking place on September 20th, as youth activists demand action on strategies to overcome the climate crisis, “The global climate strikes are a moment for the decision-makers to really hear us as a global collective. No more excuses, no good intentions and empty promises, we want real action to match their words.”
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