Divestment from fossil fuels is key to a sustainable, cleaner economy

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CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA. Local residents hold signs calling for the City of Cape Town to commit to divesting from destructive fossil fuels in Sun Valley south of Cape Town on 5 May 2017 © Jennifer Bruce/350Africa

This week, people all over the world are taking action to divest their institutions from fossil fuels. Hoda Baraka explains why.

It is official: data from the UK Met Office, NASA and NOAA demonstrate beyond doubt that 2016 was the warmest year on record. Climate impacts are taking us into uncharted territory while affecting the planet’s most vulnerable people. This is happening at a pace and magnitude far beyond the previous expectations of scientists.

At a time when governments are failing to meet their climate related promises and President Trump is threatening to leave the Paris Agreement, we can’t afford to stand-by waiting for our governments to do the right thing.

We need swift action on climate change, not words.

It is investments in the fossil fuel industry that fund climate impacts. If we are to prevent catastrophic warming, there can be absolutely no expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. That means no new mines, no new drilling, no new pipelines. That’s why our governments, universities, religious organizations, cultural institutions, individuals, and others, must divest and cut ties with the industry in order to curb the worst of future impacts of climate change.

This is why we are organizing the Global Divestment Mobilisation (GDM) – focused on driving increased divestment from fossil fuels. We are sending one clear message globally: now is the time to end the age of fossil fuels because this is what it really means to solve the climate crisis. Between 5 and 13 May, thousands of people are attending over 260 events in 45 countries on six continents, demonstrating movement-led climate leadership.

Global commitments to divest have already reached 710 institutions across 76 countries, representing well over US$5.5 trillion in assets under management. In the current vacuum of global climate leadership, the divestment movement is proving to be one of the most effective ways to undermine the power of the fossil fuel industry politically, financially and by damaging its reputation.

Via divestment, citizens and institutions across the world are able to enact an immediate and a much needed transformational form of climate leadership. Every time a respected institution publicly breaks its ties with fossil fuels, we chip away at its power to carry out immoral business plans, and we open up the space for just climate solutions to flourish.

Related: Why fossil fuels are not more economically viable than renewables

Through divestment, our goal is to also expedite a just transition to a cleaner economy. This means investing in innovative industries such as renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. Communities affected by the move away from fossil fuels, need to be included in a social dialogue, so that transition plans from companies and local authorities ensure that people find new job opportunities and training to safeguard their livelihoods. It’s not people that should pay the cost of this transition, it is the corporations that have delayed, stymied and denied climate change.

This May, we came together globally, to escalate and spread our campaigns for divestment. Campaigners, faith groups, academics and impacted local communities built on the movement, which is now spreading in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

It is time for all our institutions to do what is morally right and divest from disaster. These peaceful worldwide mobilisations served as an important point in humanity’s trajectory. We need to divest to keep the planet like the one we inherited: vibrant, flourishing and with a stable climate.

Hoda Baraka is Global Communications Director at 350.org