Fossil fuel: divestment campaigns

In the United States, all around the country, hundreds of students participate in a campaign to “Divest for Our Future” [1]. The movement began in October 2012. They are campaigning in order to stop their universities investing their funds in companies linked to fossil fuels. This initiative was inspired by the campaign in the 80s against apartheid in South Africa. In reaction, nearly 156 universities had ceased to invest in companies operating in the country. The campaign «Divest for Our Future” launched by the movement [2] and several other organizations, aimed at weakening the economic and political power (through lobbying) companies related to fossil fuels.

This campaign is taking a new force. In fact, the Seattle Mayor, Mike McGinn, has decided to support it by sending a letter to the managers of the two pension funds ($ 1.9 billion in assets) employees of the municipality, asking them to divest the 17.6 $ million equity investment in Chevron and ExxonMobil and place them in other companies.

Otherwise, they are 665 university presidents who have signed the “President’s Climate Commitment” [3] by which they undertake to take steps to make their campus more sustainable (and carbon neutral). For the students and professors engaged in this campaign, it is now necessary that universities also reflect this concern in their investment policy. The university funds are not negligible. A study conducted by USA Today showed that they represented a total of $400 billion.

The campaigners believe that a change in investment portfolios universities should not result in losses. They do not require an abrupt halt but a gel and a gradual withdrawal of investments related to the fossil fuel industry in 5 years. The campaigners also believe that these amounts would be more profitable if they were invested in energy efficiency projects on campus that provide high rates of return on investment and have little risk. A recent report estimates the average annual rate of return on investment for such projects to 30%. [4]

After a tour of 21 cities to promote the project and raise awareness of the issues of climate change, Bill McKibben, founder of, said it would be necessary to stand below 565 gigatons of additional carbon dioxide to prevent global warming more than 2 °C. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, strongly committed to the fight against climate change for many years has supported this initiative.

If the overall impact of this movement is hardly noticeable for the moment, its rapid spread in universities and beyond, shows the growing importance of mobilization at the local level in the United States in the fight against climate change.



[1] FossilFree


[3] Presidents’Climate Commitment

[4]Greening the Bottom Line

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