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Divest for Our Future

What is Fossil Fuel Divestment, and Should You Join the Movement?

As more and more Australians support climate change action, fossil fuel divestment has become a highlight in environmental campaigns throughout the country. It is seen as a part of ethical investment that could help bring positive change to society and environment. But what is fossil fuel divestment, and how can you get involved?

Definition and purpose

According to climate organisation 350, divestment is “the opposite of an investment – it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.” Emma Howard of the Guardian wrote that the global fossil fuel divestment movement is about “asking institutions to move their money out of oil, coal and gas companies for both moral and financial reasons. These institutions include universities, religious institutions, pension funds, local authorities and charitable foundations.”

350 believes it is not enough to demand a halt on infrastructure projects, such as building new pipelines or coal mines. “We need to loosen the grip that coal, oil and gas companies have on our government and financial markets, so that we have a chance of living on a planet that looks something like the one we live on now,” said the organisation in its Fossil Free website.

“It’s time to go right at the root of the problem–the fossil fuel companies themselves–and make sure they hear us in terms they might understand, like their share price.”

Why should you divest?

Australia’s energy sector still has not considered its impacts on environment, according to Daniel Gocher, head of research at Market Forces.

“Not only is Australia’s energy sector largely ignoring the Paris Agreement, nor planning for its implications, but they’re also projecting “long life growth”, as though there is no possibility that their business models could be disrupted,” said Gocher.

“Most Australian investors, including the vast majority of our super funds, have eschewed the fossil fuel divestment movement, which exceeds a staggering $3.5 trillion globally, preferring to remain invested in energy companies and use their influence as shareholders to change them from within.”

However, from a business perspective, clean energy could be more competitive today. Many experts believe that renewable energy, such as wind and solar, could now be more profitable than coal, thanks to cheaper technologies and government incentives in the US.

Furthermore, 350 argues that fossil fuel investments are “very risky”, with “disasters like Exxon Valdez, the BP oil spill, along with massive fluctuations in supply and demand of coal, oil and gas” making energy markets volatile.

Therefore, fossil fuel divestment is not only ethical and beneficial for the society and environment, but it is also potentially more profitable, as you can shift your money to other, more stable sectors.

To get involved, you can start a campaign for your institutions’ divestment, or divest your money as well.

For more information about divesting and starting a campaign, go to these websites: Investor Group on Climate Change; 350; Market Forces; and the Australia Institute.