Celebrity campaign tours US to push endowment/pension fund divestment from fossil fuels

Speakers to include Archbishop Tutu and Naomi Klein.

US environmentalist Bill McKibben will kick off a major campaign bus tour around the US today (November 7) with the specific aim of pressuring university endowment funds and pension funds to divest from fossil fuel intensive companies in order to limit global warming. The campaign is part of increasing public and NGO activism focusing on asset owners as the capital providers to the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies. The 21-city “Do the Math” tour of the US in a bio-diesel bus co-ordinated by the 350.org group starts in Seattle and will be joined along the route by high-profile speakers including Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Josh Fox, director of the Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary, Gasland, on hydraulic fracturing. The 350.org group says fossil fuel corporations have 5 times more oil, coal and gas in known reserves than climate scientists think is safe to burn to keep global temperatures from rising above two degrees. It argues that universities and pension funds should not invest in companies that endanger the environment for students and young people now entering the workforce. The Do the Math campaign is adopting much of the language of the early SRI movement. Its web site says: “The one thing we know the fossil fuel industry cares about is money. Universities, pension funds, and churches invest a lot of it. If we start with these local institutions and hit the industry where it hurts — their bottom line — we can get their attention and force them to change. This was a key part of how the world ended the apartheid system in South Africa, and we hope it can have the same effect on the climate crisis.”The campaign says it is difficult to gauge the value of assets in fossil fuel companies owned by universities and pension funds. However, it estimates that at today’s market value, the 2,795 gigatons of carbon the fossil fuel industry has in its reserves are worth about $27 trillion, and keeping 80% of those reserves in the ground, would involve a $20 trillion write-off for the industry. Activism focusing on endowment and pension fund assets is on the rise. The Responsible Endowment Coalition, a movement formed by US students in 2004, has grown its presence on campuses with the aim of lobbying colleges and universities controlling over $400 billion dollars to invest in a sustainable and socially just manner:
Another public initiative, the Asset Owner Disclosure Project (AODP), aims to survey about 1000 global pension, superannuation, insurance and sovereign wealth funds on transparency on disclosing carbon data, levels of low carbon investment, engagement with companies on environmental issues, risk management and incentivising asset managers and suppliers to reduce CO2 emissions.
Link to RI article
McKibben is the co-founder and Chairman of the Board at 350.org, which works in 188 countries. He authored a recent article in Rolling Stone magazine, which explains many of the arguments behind the Do the Math campaign: Link to article