natural gas

New research on the financial impacts of fossil fuel divestment

Our partners in 350 have shared some recent research on the financial impacts of fossil fuel divestment with us (thesis PDF,thesis summary PPT). This research was undertaken by Alison Shulz of the University of Kassel, Germany. It should be noted that the primary focus of the divestment-reinvestment campaign is on social impacts: discrediting the fossil fuel industry to remove their social license to operate. So financial impacts, where they exist, are in a sense a bonus. Here are some of the headline conclusions of the paper:

– The direct, short-term impact of divestment (if any)…

• Theoretically, a direct effect of divestment should result from limited risk sharing (Merton) and the fact that assets can only be sold at a discount (Miller)

• Empirically, announcement to divest from a specific company has no effect on this specific company’s stock price

• This effect is however present for coal firms which mainly operate in markets of the Global North

• Divestment announcements are found to have a negative impact on stock prices of the whole fossil fuel sector

• This effect is even more pronounced for financially motivated divestment and large divested sums

The long-term impact is still unclear.

It should be noted that this is an under-researched area. It’s our impression that this research does not include the likely additional positive impacts of capital which is diverted from fossil fuels directly into renewable energy or other ethical investments.