Of course there is great uncertainty in such estimations, and how we act in the United States and globally will determine whether the tides do indeed turn in favour of climate action — a topic I will return to later on. What is clear, however, is that there is great risk for the coal industry in the United States at the moment, and thus much grounds for divesting straight away, and if not at least monitoring the situation very carefully see following footnote for some important ways to do so Here is an overview of just some.
Douglass, Similarly the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board SASB was founded to identify the material sustainability risks and opportunities facing companies, on an industry-by-industry basis, so that investors can more easily understand, use and compare key sustainability performance indicators on sustainability issues. The Carbon Disclosure Project CDP , an international not-for-profit organisation, has also made significant contributions to improving corporate disclosure practices.
CDP has built a global system for companies to measure, disclose, manage, and share key environmental data. CDP has compiled the largest self- reporting climate change, water, and forest-risk dataset, and has made these key environmental metrics available to the investor community.
Additionally, the International Integrated Reporting Committee has created an important framework for connecting these sustainability metrics to traditional financial data. In the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission has issued guidance on climate related disclosure, however it has not been expanded to include stranded carbon asset risk. Much of the information in this footnote comes from Generation Foundation, Furthermore, many who do perceive the risks seem content to ride the bubble while it is afloat.
Indeed, as James Leaton points out, "analysts say you should ride the train until just before it goes off the cliff. Each thinks they are smart enough to get off in time, but not everyone can get out of the door at the same time. That is why you get bubbles and crashes". Similarly, billionaire asset manager Tom Steyer has directed his investment team to divest from coal Steyer, and famed short-seller Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates shorted all but one coal producer in the US due to his belief that they are and will continue to be unattractive investments Scheyder, On a broader level the perception around investments in fossil fuel stocks in the U.
Coal Bubble. Thus the question we should be asking ourselves is how much longer can universities and other endowments afford to ride the coal bubble? Even if there is a small window of profitability remaining it is important that endowment managers consider that there investments have a long term horizon and thus playing the markets until just before the bubble bursts or starts to rapidly shrink is an increasingly irresponsible long-term strategy.
To emphasize this point it is worth quoting Bevis Longstreth at length: As long term investors, fiduciaries of endowments need not worry unduly about short-term results. Anticipatory divestment should be viewed as having unknown short-term consequences for the portfolio, which could involve loss as well as gain.
In the long run, those short-term results are unimportant. The financial case advanced above rests on the claim that fossil fuel companies will prove to be bad investments over the long term and, therefore, with foresight that anticipates this result, should be removed from the long-term holdings of an endowment before the strengthening likelihood of this result becomes commonplace in the market.
Furthermore, in the case of the carbon bubble and action on climate change much uncertainty abounds, and it seems likely that the formation of probability estimates will differ widely as to whether and when the carbon bubble will burst or as to how it will shrink. To illustrate that point, consider that Paul Gilding a wrote an article claiming that victory for the climate movement, broadly speaking, was close at hand.
In response to the article Gilding received a flood of feedback. Many analysts, however, are failing to see this as their financial valuation models are premised on historical trends, which are arguably no longer applicable to the rapidly shifting energy and environmental landscape we are entering. Given both the size of this risk and that the tides of public opinion are beginning to shift, opinion which plays a major role in driving markets, the question of how long we can afford to ride the bubble is an increasingly important question for all investors to be asking themselves.
Why not just divest? Given that the growing divestment movement is exposing the carbon bubble to sunlight —sunlight, of course, has the tendency to burst bubbles — and that there is such great risk involved in the U. The usual response is that the bubble will not collapse for some years to come, if at all, and in the meantime the coal industry is profitable, so pulling our investments will remove a substantial source of revenue for the endowment and thus the university.
The same concern, framed slightly differently, is that screening a portfolio for such investments increases the risk to the overall portfolio. I would highly recommend their paper for those interested in the practical work of divesting and moving towards a more sustainable portfolio. Fortunately, the work of working out the risks posed by divestment has, to a certain extent, already been done.
The risk from broader divestment of the fossil fuel industry worked out to be 0. Skeptics could point out that even for such trivial amounts of increased risk investors are technically bearing additional risk for which they are not compensated. Indeed, given that an endowment is meant to focus on long-term investment periods, on such time-scales the risks of the carbon bubble taking hold seem to significantly outweigh the risks posed by divestment, especially if done smartly.
The study concluded that each of the fossil-free strategies offered equal if not slightly better returns than a portfolio which did not screen out carbon risk. With the restraints from the carbon bubble in place we are entering a radically different investing environment and thus we cannot rely on historical trends as reliable indicators of future performance.
These studies were done, furthermore, in a time when the carbon bubble is a concept that is only just coming to the fore, and the implications of which are only beginning to ripple through the financial industry. In the long-term, however, the likelihood of the carbon bubble causing significant revaluations of fossil fuel assets poses considerable risks to those who continue to invest in the fossil fuel industry, especially in those industries that are most capital- and carbon- intensive.
Indeed, in the long-term it seems highly likely that as broader recognition of the risks posed by the carbon bubble plays out through the market and broader society responds to climate change that many fossil fuel assets will become stranded. As Longstreth points out, fiduciaries of endowments are charged with a duty of care, which is outlined in the American Law Institute's Restatement of Trusts, Third, Section as such: "This standard requires the exercise of reasonable care, skill and caution, and is applied to investments not in isolation but in the context of the Granted, I am a philosopher not a financial analyst although I would welcome collaboration with one , nonetheless by drawing on the extensive work of financial analysts the economic case for divesting from coal and much of the broader fossil fuel industry seems pretty strong, and rather than it being a political or symbolic act, if I were an endowment manager I would see it as a fulfillment of my duty of care.
This unfurling reality perhaps marks an important strategic point for the divestment movement, who can pressure their endowments through drawing on the financial case and the language and responsibilities of fiduciary duty and the accompanying duty of care.
Then, if successful, the divestment movement can use the fulfillment of those duties by their endowments as political, symbolic and ethical victories which mark the recognition of the carbon bubble. Doing so avoids endowment managers having to use their endowments as political tools, while allowing the divestment movement to politicize the fulfillment of fiduciary duty, a seeming win-win for both, although not so much for the fossil fuel industry if it continues to employ business models not compatible with a carbon-constrained world.
For those not convinced by my financial and economic analysis and who believe instead that there is still profit to be made by riding the coal and broader carbon bubble while it is still afloat, more convincing might be needed. On the other end of the spectrum, some within the divestment movement might argue that a cautionary approach to fiduciary duty is not enough and that universities and other endowment should be using their endowments in more powerful and progressive ways to lead the way forward to a more environmentally and social responsibly investing paradigm.
In order to answer both ends of the spectrum although in different ways, it is at this point, having gotten at least some handle on the risks involved on both sides of divestment, that I would like to turn to the second half of my analysis, which takes into account moral considerations. I hope to show that when the moral implications of divestment are included, the case for divestment is made. The quote above is the oft repeated maxim used in the divestment movement, which attempts to underline what is morally wrong with the fossil fuel industry.
While the maxim may seem strong in its simplicity, it is necessary that we dig deeper than this maxim if we are to truly understand the complexities of the moral case behind divestment. The major problematic issue with the maxim, as the critical reader will hopefully have identified, is that it implicates pretty much everyone in the United States as having committed moral wrongdoings. Indeed, not only is pretty much everyone in the United States and most 33 Since the initial publication of this paper online, a coalition of environmental groups at Yale University has produced a somewhat similar ethical analysis using the Kew Gardens Principle for ethical investing Bullock et al.
I would highly recommend their paper. It seems then that if we are to morally condemn the coal and fossil fuel industry as the divestment movement has done, that we are going to have to point out why the industry is particularly morally culpable and why this calls for divestment. Where then does one turn? The first step in answering this is to show that complicity in a fossil fuel heavy infrastructure does not entail that one cannot consistently condemn and push for changes to that same infrastructure upon which one relies.
Paxson, Their reasoning suggests that there is a form of hypocrisy involved in condemning the very thing one is reliant upon. However, while this objection might seem to have force at first, its strength is misleading for a number of reasons. Firstly, for the most part it is not the case that our universities and other institutions are directly responsible for the infrastructure that surrounds them.
Rather their reliance on fossil fuels is largely a relic of the infrastructure created around them, which was propped up through past subsidies and investments they had very little to do with. What this points to is that the problem of fossil fuel dependence is largely a systemic one. Furthermore, it seems quite consistent for an individual embedded within such a system to condemn that system and push for and invest in an alternative.
Just because one is embedded in a system does not mean that one cannot consistently condemn aspects of that system without invoking hypocrisy. The systems we are reliant on were largely not chosen by us, and those who did make the choices that built up the systems upon which we now rely did so often within a radically different context to the one we now face. However, I do not believe that this distinction holds much moral weight, and I am yet to encounter a strong enough argument for believing that it does.
Just because they may at the time have been reliant on the practice of slavery does not mean that they could not consistently condemn it and push for change. As Christopher Bangs points out,36 abolitionists had both an individual and a systemic responsibility to respond to slavery. Individually they could end, to the extent possible, their own personal involvement, and systemically they had a responsibility to push for broader change. Indeed it was only through actors and institutions doing just that that we were able to bring about change to that horrific system.
Likewise, it is only through recognizing and responding to the problematic nature of the carbon- intensive system upon which we rely that one can move beyond it. Thus, complicity in a problematic system, if anything, comes with a responsibility to push for a broader change, rather than as an excuse for inaction, a responsibility I shall outline in greater details throughout this paper.
The second and related reason why the complicity response is problematic is that divestment and investment is an arguably forward-looking practice insofar as how we invest determines the future that we will create. Thus while we may currently be reliant and complicit in carbon-intensive infrastructure, it is precisely because of that fact that the divestment movement is calling for a shift in our investments in order to respond, both passively and actively, to the need to create an alternative future in which our practices are no longer embedded within a system that brings about significant harm through the almost unavoidable emissions associated with doing business or simply living within a system reliant on carbon- intensive infrastructure.
Furthermore, it is a strategy which aims to propel that shift forward, an active strategy to bring about change. In response to divestment many are indeed invoking just such a line of thought: We cannot transition away from the fossil fuel heavy infrastructure, and thus one cannot say that we ought to do so.
Such a statement, however, relies on an empirical claim about the possibility of a clean energy future, which can be challenged and indeed has been multiple times. Even if we cannot transition on a dime, it is important to remember that a university endowment has a long-term investment horizon, and while a clean energy future is by no means a guaranteed outcome, it is partly because of that uncertainty that it is morally problematic for a university to hide behind complicity as an excuse to abdicate their role in promoting a clean future through their investments as I shall elaborate on later on in this essay.
However, before doing so, having now pushed at least partly past the complicity excuse, it is important that we address the question of why the fossil fuel industry is particularly morally culpable when it comes to climate change and why this calls for divestment, for not everyone agrees that fossil fuels are morally problematic Cf. Epstein, However, I do so because it succinctly represents the radical opposition view and because I believe I successfully refute it in this paper, albeit indirectly.
When I have more time I would enjoy directly refuting it point-by-point. To be charitable it does make at least one valid point that the fossil fuel industry is beneficial insofar as it has brought us significant amounts of energy, which has unlocked our ability to do vast amounts in society. While this is true we do now have alternatives which we can employ to unlock energy for us, sources of energy which are significantly less harmful and will not condemn our planet to a climate crisis, a point which Epstein seems to greatly overlook in his rather brazen fossil-fuel industry sponsored ode to the fossil industry.
However, in order to find consistent moral grounds for divestment, we need to find something which applies to all companies we aim to divest from, or show why each company is deserving of divestment. Indeed, if one were to consistently apply the idea of divesting from companies because of lobbying this would likely lead to divesting from most corporations in America, including parts of the renewable energy sector.
This, of course, is not to deny that the extent of lobbying is deeply problematic, it is Cf. However, they do not seem to provide consistent grounds for divesting from the industry at large, so what then does? In order to answer this question I aim to show that a number of rather widely agreed upon and somewhat uncontroversial moral principles support the idea that continued reliance on and investments in coal in particular - along with other similarly harmful fossil fuels, especially those at the top of the hierarchy of potentially stranded high carbon assets - is morally problematic.
Things that cause an increase in human suffering and death are bad. Resource scarcity, pollution and natural disasters cause human suffering and death. The burning of fossil fuels cause resource scarcity, pollution and natural disasters. The burning of fossil fuels cause human suffering and death.
The burning of fossil fuels is bad. If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it. We can prevent something bad from happening by divesting from fossil fuels. Divesting from fossil fuels and reinvesting in high-returns clean energy investments does not sacrifice anything of moral importance.
In the case of divesting from fossil fuels, we can prevent something bad from happening without sacrificing anything of moral importance. We ought, morally, to divest from fossil fuels. Ullmann, I thank Ullmann for her thoughtful contribution, and while she asks that those who do not agree with her premises should not reply, for the sake of advancing the moral argument further I apologise for not complying with her request.
Ullmann in using this premise chose the broader of two principles which Singer had proposed in his paper. As I pointed out earlier, if we incorporate externalities by including natural capital impact, the coal industry turns out to cause more damage than good.
Muller et al. Furthermore, CBAs are often too conservative and do not adequately capture the costs associated with climate change. Most egregious among the problems with CBAs is that through the use of the discount rate they often unfairly discount the interests of future generations.
Gardiner, b. Nordhaus, rather surprisingly, is one of the co-authors of one of the studies that claims that coals negative effects outweigh its positive effects Muller et al. What this shows is that the moral case I am trying to point out may be significantly stronger than my reliance on CBAs suggests.
This is even further the case given that CBAs do not properly countenance issues such as the value of nature, human rights and justice. That being so, the toll of the coal industry at large is more than I would care to calculate at present. This would seem to be even more likely so for an endowment fund. Thus, it is important that the ethical case for divestment does not rely solely on his principle, thus I go on to identify other supporting principles. Caney, ; Nolt, and that divestment can reduce emissions, as I shall show later in this paper, then if we consider as was established in the economic analysis, that the costs of divestment are likely beneficial, we can then say that by the no-harm principle the university endowment has the responsibility to avoid inflicting or contributing to serious harm through its financed emissions.
Based on the evidence given above it once again seems clear that this principle would point in the direction of divestment. The difference in using this principle, however, is that it allows for the fact that the institution does not itself have to be the one directly causing harm, but that if it nonetheless has the power to prevent harm through the changes it makes then it has moral responsibility.
This may be an important principle to use if one thinks that endowments are not themselves directly causing the harm, but are only indirectly doing so through their choice of investments. This incredibly morally lax principle of mutual beneficence would arguably call for a more limited form of divestment than the ones above, as it would only call for divestment if one could show that it was benefitting oneself, as I have aimed to show.
The other principles may be more demanding insofar as they call for divestment not only when it can be shown to be in your own benefit. Thus at this point we have four independent moral principles by which to justify divestment. It also aims to show that those who do not accept my economic analysis that divesting from coal is profitable would still have a moral responsibility based on the Principle of Comparability, the No-Harm Principle and the Weak Principle of Beneficence. The moral case for divestment, in other words, is rather sound.
Before moving on to discuss potential objection to this view I want to briefly motivate and partly defend my choice to choose the controversial heuristic of cost-benefit analyses to provide this moral analysis. Indeed, as Stephen Gardiner b points out, opponents of CBA often oppose CBAs because they cannot adequately account for issues such as individual rights, procedural and distributive justice, and the value of nature, all of which are central concerns for climate change considerations.
Despite this Nordhaus, rather surprisingly, is one of the co-authors of one of the studies that claims that coals negative effects outweigh its positive effects Muller et al. This is despite the fact that their study uses the DICE model and its arguably problematic assumptions about the costs and social discount rate associated with climate change. Common s Responsibility in a Perfect Moral Storm There are, however, two related objections which if true would seemingly refute the moral case for divestment.
The first objection argued by many opponents of divestment states that divesting will not actually have a positive effect on climate change. However, if you are not convinced by the second objection regarding the need for individual action in the tragedy of the commons you can safely skip over this section.
However in order to engage those who support such objections I believe it is important to lay out my response in full. In order to come to grips with the objection it will be useful to briefly elucidate a debate in the climate ethics literature between Marion Hourdequin and Baylor Johnson Cf. Hourdequin, , ; Johnson, , Hardin, Lenferna, This objection, however, is flawed on a number of grounds and delving further into the Hourdequin-Johnson debate will help us to understand why.
The first problem with this objection is that it ignores the fact that divestment is not something that an institution undertakes as an isolated action removed from the actions of other institutions or society at large. Rather it is part of a much broader divestment movement, and an increasingly systemic response to the carbon bubble, a point I will expand on later. Another flaw in this objection is that it represents somewhat of a false dichotomy insofar as it sees action on divestment and broader action on climate change as mutually exclusive options, which they are arguably not.
Johnson claims that unilateral actions should be held to be secondary because they are not as effective as cooperative schemes, whereas Hourdequin argues that the two are both important complimentary strategies. One principled difference between their two positions is that although both Johnson and Hourdequin acknowledge a responsibility to tackle climate change, for Johnson the duty to tackle climate change outside of agreed collective action is an imperfect Kantian duty whereas within one it is a perfect Kantian agreement.
This is not too surprising given that Johnson analyzes climate change as a simple tragedy of the commons, which mischaracterizes the nature of the moral problem that is climate change. Or, in the more poetic words of David Orr, what is required is not a silver bullet, but rather silver buckshot. Highlighting the mutually reinforcing nature of divestment and broader climate action, Ansar et al. Thus divestment can be not only part of a necessarily multi-tiered approach to climate change, but furthermore it can be a highly complementary part of that poly-centric approach as I shall go on to elucidate.
Before doing so it is important to point out that climate change is no ordinary tragedy of the commons. Rather it is a much more vicious and intractable problem than a typical tragedy of the commons, insofar as it has much stronger intergenerational, global and theoretical difficulties than an average tragedy of the commons; difficulties which make it even more difficult to resolve Cf. Thus to abandon divestment as a strategy in the face of the perfect moral storm may be to throw out one of the much needed tools to guide us through the storm when we are arguably already significantly overwhelmed by the strength thereof Cf.
Indeed given the complexity and scale of the climate crisis we arguably need almost every tool at our disposal to weather this storm and to dismiss divestment because one is using a few other tools available is arguably to underestimate the scale and nature of the problem we face, and what is required to solve it. Horvitz, But admitting so is not the same as admitting that divestment itself is ineffective. This is an important point, but from my experience, however, I am not sure how many divestment activists believe otherwise.
Thus, remembering that we are attempting to dismiss the objection that divestment is not an effective strategy to deal with climate change, allow me now to explain just how divestment may be an effective part of a broader polycentric approach. Deflating the Bubble In the past I have seen the economic analysis of the carbon bubble as painting a rather stark dilemma. Either we burn the listed fossil fuel reserves and far overshoot the 2 degree target causing untold misery through the negative effects of climate change.
Alternatively we burst the bubble and cause massive devaluation on the markets which leads to trillions of dollars of losses. But divestment can be seen in a different light, as a reallocation of value away from industries that are unprofitable in a carbon constrained world towards a cleaner economy. Thus real value is not entirely lost but largely reallocated and possibly even increased, although the value of companies whose profitability is based on unburnable carbon will, of course, decline.
In this light the divestment and complimentary reinvestment movement is potentially playing an incredibly important role in deflating the bubble, recreating value and easing our way out of the dilemma we are in. Indeed, if the opinion poll numbers I quoted earlier are anything to go by both investors and the public are slowly starting to wake up to the risks that fossil fuel investments have.
Some might say it is wrong for universities to divest as it might trigger the bubble. However, such a response is the equivalent to sticking our heads in the sand, which is a decidedly foolish strategy to employ if previous financial bubbles are anything to go by. Thus the divestment movement should be commended, for by presciently raising awareness about the risks of the bubble they may facilitate a more gradual deflation from the bubble and reallocation of capital towards a more sane growth trajectory, provided, that is, that institutions wake up to the reality they face.
Relatedly by getting their institutions to divest, or at least to begin to incorporate carbon risk into their investment strategies, divestment campaigns may help to shield their respective institutions from unnecessary risk and losses associated with the carbon bubble. The role of the divestment movement is much bigger than that though, for as I have argued, markets are driven very much by our perception of them and the divestment movement is significantly shifting that perception.
Thus, by exposing the potentially erroneous foundations upon which the value of the U. How much impact they are having is hard to quantify, but evidence suggests it is far from negligible and continually growing — indeed considering the shift in public opinion around the 52 Duke Energy is one of the largest U.
S cities and a growing number of other institutions have already committed to divesting, the movement seems to have significant influence. Thus shareholder resolution proponents often argue that divestment should be abandoned as a strategy or used as a means of last resort Cf. Ansar et al. In response it is worth surveying some evidence of the effectiveness of shareholder resolutions as provided by Nguyen and Rissman : In May , 73 of 78 descendants of Exxon Mobil founder John D.
Rockefeller, Sr. Their resolution failed It failed 85 percent to 15 percent. These cases are not isolated incidents. While not all companies may be as obstinate as BP and Exxon, and it may be easier to shift smaller companies through the use of shareholder advocacy, nonetheless it is important to remember, as Bill McKibben repeatedly points out, that the business model of much of the fossil fuel industry is based on the burning and exploitation of fossil fuels, and for this reason it is unlikely that for many such industries a shareholder resolution will suffice to deviate them from their core business activity.
Greere, Given this one may be inclined to agree with the McKibben and organizations like the Christian charity Operation Noah who have argued that the window of opportunity to engage with such firms to get them to improve their environmental and social performance has passed Cf. Revell, However, despite this evidence, I do not think that is it is reasonable to make a blanket generalization that shareholder advocacy is completely inefficacious in the face of the carbon bubble, especially given that as of late at least partly spurned on by the divestment movement there has been an unprecedented scale of shareholder activism aimed at getting fossil fuel companies to analyse and report the risks posed by climate change and the carbon bubble Simpson, , p.
Given this unprecedented level of shareholder advocacy and the fact that the direct impact of divestment may be quite limited Cf. Bainbridge, Thus if shareholders can show that a corporation is not fulfilling this task through negligence, then they can potentially launch a lawsuit to ensure that corporations do actually do what is most profitable. Consider, again, the practice of investing huge amounts of capital on CAPEX when we already have five times more reserves than we can afford to burn.
Furthermore, as has been suggested, 56 divestment may bolster remaining shareholder advocates by the boldness of divestment highlighting the seriousness of the issue and lending strength to a shareholders plea. Thus divestment and shareholder advocacy can perhaps be seen as complimentary strategies. Indeed, as Simon Billenness has pointed out, both divestment and shareholder advocacy should be used as complimentary tools with the long-term aim of not only getting the broader market to realize that these assets are over-valued, but also to eventually get the SEC to regulate that companies down-value their assets to be consistent with their actual value in a carbon-constrained world.
But…we should be wary not to be seduced by its logic. The need to not succumb to this logic is particularly important given that, as we have pointed out, climate change is no ordinary tragedy of the commons, and also because contrary to the claim that universities are just too small to make a difference by divesting, the case for divestment is particularly pertinent when done by influential institutions such as universities.
Of course, as shown by analysis from both Ritchie and Dowlatabadi and Ansar et al , and as many divestment activists realize, the direct emissions reduced through divestment are relatively small — however, arguably not negligible.
More importantly, however, are many of the indirect impacts. A Nobler Ivory Tower The characterization of universities as ivory towers, while not completely baseless, is perhaps a misleading characterization which often allows universities to hide behind a veil of seeming neutrality rather than to accept the role that they play as leaders within society.
Contrary to the idea of a neutral ivory tower it was universities that first brought awareness of the climate crisis to the forefront, who have taken a stand and led on so many important issues and who continue to play an important role in understanding and responding to the civilisation challenging threat that is climate change.
Consider that when Nelson Mandela was released from prison in the build-up to the downfall of South African Apartheid, the first place that he visited in the United States was not the White House but rather UC Berkeley in order to thank them and other U.
Mandela whose diplomacy played a central role in dismantling Apartheid was a man who knew that public perception was a powerful force in influencing morally-complex issues such as Apartheid. Of course, most people are not suggesting that divestment ended Apartheid nor are they making similar claims that fossil fuel divestment will by itself end climate change. Nonetheless the role that divestment played in Apartheid was far from a negligible one Cf.
Counts, , and in the case of climate change and the carbon bubble the role of perception is arguably even more pertinent. Indeed as Marion Hourdequin points out, how individuals perceive themselves 58 It is precisely in such conditions, that I would argue that leadership plays an important role which in game theoretic terms may be understood as a form of signaling or forward induction a topic I will return to later in this paper.
Big events such as revolutions cannot be predicted by social science in any specificity for good reasons — they occur in open systems characterized by emergent qualities and human creativity. In a time where moral leadership is increasingly vacuous the last thing we need is for our institutions of higher education, which play such an important communicative and social function, to declare that when it comes to their finances morality is out of the question.
The status quo, however, is fast leading us down a disastrous path, and so students, faculty members and society at large are asking universities to step down from behind the false veil of neutrality and to do the right thing. PricewaterhouseCoopers, Alternatively universities can help us to achieve the rather radical emission reductions we need to avert climate catastrophe Cf.
However, in order to do so, universities need to act fast, for the window to keep the world below two degrees is rapidly closing, if it has not closed already. Furthermore, an investment clearly acts as a positive endorsement of what one invests in. The idea that an investment somehow is a neutral act seems to rest on a perverse notion that somehow how we mobilize the resources available to us has nothing to with values.
Indeed, not only are universities betting on climate failure, rather they are investing in it. As Ansar et al. In the first only small universities and institutions divest, yet even in this first wave, where divestment outflows are relatively meager, research suggests that divestment can nonetheless significantly and permanently depress the stock price of a target firm by potentially triggering a change in market norms Cf. Now, given that a number of small universities and institutions have already divested, we are arguably moving into the second wave of divestment where larger universities such as Harvard and Columbia divest.
As Ansar et al point out, large and influential universities such as these divesting has generally marked a tipping point which paves the way for the broader public and rest of the globe to divest, which represents the third wave of divestment.
The effects of these latter waves of divestment, furthermore, are potentially much larger and more diffuse, such as influencing market norms, decreasing finance and debt flows to fossil fuel companies, decreasing their intrinsic value and reputation, and even spurring on restrictive legislation — all of which is comprehensively outlined in Ansar et al , who also recognized that divestment would be more effective against coal and tar- and oil-sands and less so against the broader gas and oil industries.
Thus, although divestment movements are not well understood given their relative infrequency and the complexity of the different issues they pertain to, it seems that the role of universities in determining social and market norms and the future of our planet through divestment is potentially great, as is the responsibility that comes with yielding such influence.
The question now is whether universities will continue to hide behind the false veil of neutrality or whether they will recognize and respond to the responsibility that comes with their great influence on broader society. The effects felt, furthermore, are more severe than the dry economic language of percentage global GDP can arguably reveal.
This quote, furthermore, does not take into account that climate change through exacerbating scarcity of resources could lead to increased conflicts and wars over scarce resources. Indeed, according to the UN Human Development Report, climate change and other environmental disasters could put 3. Of course many of the benefits from action on climate change will be accrued both in the future and by people across the globe, making action on it a deeply ethical issue Cf.
Gardiner, It is the ethical nature of climate change which calls out for an ethical response to the issue, which transcends the limited real-politik of self-interest and the limited social imaginaries tying us into a future defined by climate chaos. Indeed, given the deeply ethical challenge climate change poses and the potentially disastrous effects it is set to wreak on the world and especially on the poor and future generations, it is apropos, I believe, to end this paper by revisiting Nelson Mandela, arguably one of the greatest moral leaders of our time.
It is man- made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. Although Mandela did not explicitly state it, the statement he made has particular pertinence to anthropogenic climate change, for our failure to act and act with urgency, especially the failure of those in positions of power, affluence and wealth, may very well halt and then reverse the progress we have made on reducing poverty, leading to poverty, the scale of which this world has never seen before.
This is a manmade problem and not a question of charity. It is a matter of justice, especially to the global poor and future generations. You can be that great generation… Let your greatness blossom. Of course the task will not be easy. The question now is will universities and other institutions join them? Emotion and financial markets. Economic Review-Federal Reserve …, 33— The Emission Case for a Radical Plan.
Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research. The Nation. Case law on the fiduciary duty of directors to maximize the wealth of corporate shareholders. When we first announced our goals to divest in , we were among few public pensions in this movement.
Today, 18 mayors have joined us to turn the tide for our planet and transition to a green economy. I urge other mayors to join us in holding fossil fuel companies accountable, transitioning to a green future for our world and winning the war against the climate crisis.
These six new cities committing to divest from the industries responsible for the climate emergency, and invest in climate solutions to support decent jobs and a green and just economy, are sending an important market signal ahead of COP World leaders, city and local governments, businesses and organisations everywhere need to follow suit and put their money where their mouth is. We must divest from fossil fuels, and invest in the future we want for humanity and the planet. A full copy of the report can be found here and interviews with authors, institutions who have committed to divest can be made available upon request.
The Global Divestment Commitments Database can be found here. Keep up to date with the latest news and advice on how to DivestInvest. There's a lot going in the DivestInvest movement. Please fill in the form to help us send the most relevant news and stories for you. Organizers announce new commitments from Rio de Janeiro, Glasgow, and more than 70 faith institutions to divest from fossil fuels and invest in climate solutions Washington, D.
Among its findings: Divestment is winning. MacArthur Foundation committing to divest in just the past few months, the movement has reached a threshold moment. It is increasingly difficult for major institutions to make the argument that ongoing fossil fuel investment is wise. The movement is growing fast. Public divestment commitments have grown by 49 percent in just the last three years.
The assets under management metric is standard within the financial sector, is useful for comparing the size of the movement to other components of the economy, and is easily verifiable. Not all companies included in this list have fully divested all assets from fossil fuels, which remains a movement demand see below.
This number only tracks public commitments to divest, the true amount of fossil fuel divestment is almost certainly significantly larger. With 10 years of data there is now hard evidence that divestment is a winning financial strategy. Early adopters of divestment strategies are reporting neutral or positive financial results. Surveys and analyses by Wall Street firms support it. Despite recent short-term surges, the outlook for fossil fuels is grim.
The movement is now a market factor. Oil companies and market analysts both say the movement has gotten so big it is affecting fossil fuel company profits. Engagement is not enough. Shareholder engagement with fossil fuel companies, which some investors have tried to suggest as an alternative to divestment, has proven ineffective and too slow. More investment in climate solutions is badly needed. While divestment has been winning, there is much more that needs to be done investing in climate solutions.
We need to triple the amount of money flowing into renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure. A just transition makes sense for everyone. Investing in such a transition supports the values of mission-based investors, and the economic goals of all investors. Institutions that have partially divested must now divest all of their assets from all fossil fuels. As linked to this commitment, all institutions must align their policy, regulatory positions, and political expenditures with this commitment.
All institutional investors must immediately move to invest a minimum of 5 percent of their assets in climate solutions, doubling to 10 percent by , including investments in renewable energy systems, universal energy access, and a just transition for communities and workers. Further, investors must hold these companies accountable to respecting Indigenous and other human rights and environmental standards. Commit to DivestInvest today Join the global investor movement accelerating the sustainable energy transition.
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Instead of focusing on categorising investments simply as “fossil” or “fossil-free”, financial industry experts have prepared a more holistic. Pressure is mounting on institutional investors to invest their funds responsibly and (3) no exploration of new sources of fossil fuels. Our mission is to fight against climate change, invest in clean energy infrastructure and integrate Haitian youth in the country's sustainable development. We.