Divest!

More and more institutions and even whole countries are disinvesting in fossil fuels. This is happening. Money talks.

To be realistic, wind and solar power are not yet feasible ways to provide for all our energy requirements. Better batteries would help. Nuclear would cover our needs without adding to carbon dioxide levels, but as Japan and Ukraine know, it’s not a safe yet. Accidents still happen, often rendering a zone uninhabitable. Luckily, incidents in which the ocean or the water supply are rare.

We need to find solutions and also cut our energy use. Withdrawing financial support for fossil fuels exerts pressure in the right direction.

Costa Rica
Earlier this year, Costa Rica’s new president, Carlos Alvarado, announced a plan to ban fossil fuels and eliminate their carbon footprint. Mr. Alvarado, a thirty-eight-year-old former journalist, made the announcement to thousands of people during his inauguration in May. "Decarbonisation is the great task of our generation,” he said, “and Costa Rica must be among the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first." As part of the proposal, the government will start implementing a plan to end its use of fossil fuels in transportation in 2021. That’s just three years from now.

China
Although the details haven’t yet been announced, China is considering a similar initiative that would affect industries around the world. Last September, Xin Guobin, the vice minister of industry and information technology, told the audience at an automotive conference in Tianjin that the government is developing a long-term plan to phase out vehicles powered by fossil fuels.

 (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

(Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

New York City
Here in the United States, New York City has risen to a leadership position in the battle for divestment. At a press conference last January, in a neighborhood harmed by Hurricane Sandy nearly six years ago, officials announced that the city will stop divesting its massive pension funds to fossil fuel businesses and is suing the five largest oil companies for damages.

“Our planet’s most important city was now at war with its richest industry,” wrote Bill McKibben, the cofounder of the climate group 350.org. “And overnight, the battle to save the planet shifted from largely political to largely financial.”

Of course, this shift has been in progress for a long time. The campaign to divest from fossil fuels, which 350.org helped launch, has become the largest of its kind, with more than $6 trillion in investments pulled so far.

California and Hawaii
Have both voted that by 2045 all their states' energy will have to come from carbon free sources.

Asbury Park
The mayor of Asbury Park, NJ has refused to allow off shore drilling in the vicinity of his town. In fact, many NJ residents oppose drilling off the coast of their state... 

 Offshore drilling protest in Hamilton, N.J. (Wayne Parry / AP)

Offshore drilling protest in Hamilton, N.J. (Wayne Parry / AP)

Ireland
In June, Ireland moved to withdraw its public funding for fossil fuels, an event marking the most significant advance in the international divestment movement. The lower house of Parliament passed a bill that will force the country’s sovereign fund, which is valued at 8.9 billion euros, or about $10.4 billion, to stop financing non-renewable resources “as soon as practicable.”  

According to an aide to Thomas Pringle, the member of Parliament who proposed the measure, the bill has the support of Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, and will likely become law. When it does, Ireland will become the first country to formally commit to fossil fuel divestment.

Norway
Norway is proposing to drop oil and gas companies from its sovereign investment fund, which amounts to $1 trillion dollars. And they’re a big oil-producing nation!

England
Last month, the Church of England’s General Synod, Parliament, bishops, clergy and laity voted 347 to 4 to sell its holdings in fossil fuel businesses that had not pledged to align their practices with the Paris Climate Accord by 2023.

Additionally, the charity Christian Aid announced earlier this month that more than 5,500 churches of various denominations across the UK are now using renewable energy. Churches have united to use their financial and moral clout to impact the fossil fuel industry.

 York Minster is among the churches using renewable energy. (Steve Parsons/PA)

York Minster is among the churches using renewable energy. (Steve Parsons/PA)

New Zealand
In April, New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced that the country will be prohibiting new offshore exploration for oil and gas as a way of tackling climate change.

Corporations
Facebook, Citigroup and Ikea plan to on use energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Little by little
So, although Trump and his Republican enablers are eliminating regulations that govern emissions and pollution, backing continued and expanded fossil fuel use and emasculating what little is left of the EPA, there is some hope. Cities, small countries (and even some very large ones like China) and states are acting on their own, doing what they can to offer us a chance of a future. They have set targets and many are divesting in fossil fuel industries; money talks. Until we vote for federal representatives that will do what needs to be done—who have some spine—places and institutions around the world are taking this into their own hands. All is not lost yet.