Environmentalist super-group calls for fossil fuel divestment

A collection of 160 of the world's top environmentalists have taken a full page advert in the New York Times to call on philanthropists and charities to use their funds to tackle global warming ahead of next week's UN Climate Summit in New York.

Known as the Environmental Laureates, the group warns of a 4C-6C rise in global temperatures, and says it is ‘terrified that we will lose our ability to feed ourselves, run out of potable water, increase the scope for war, and cause the very fabric of civilization to crash’.

However, the group believes the collective wealth and influence of the world’s philanthropic foundations can ‘trigger a survival reflex in society, thus greatly helping those negotiating the climate treaty’.

The European Environment Foundation (EEF) drew the environmentalists together and will now write to the foundations individually, asking them to carry out a three-point plan:

  1. Invest directly in clean energy companies and low-carbon projects. 
  2. Withdraw investments from fossil fuel companies or campaigning as shareholders for them not to develop new reserves. 
  3. Offer grants to support clean-energy start-ups and stimulate the development of low-carbon markets. 

Climate change treaty

Dr Jeremy Leggett, the EEF Trustee who coordinated the declaration, said: “The world’s philanthropic foundations fund work which improves the lives of millions of people around the world, but if they want that work to last they can’t afford to ignore climate change. Investing in a clean energy future is the best way to safeguard their work and their finances.

“We hope this appeal will stimulate vital investment in a clean energy future, demonstrate support for an ambitious climate change treaty, and create space for a tipping point in climate action.”

Other UK signatories include environmentalists Jonathan Porritt and Tony Juniper; green energy pioneers Dale Vince and Juliet Davenport; sustainable investment expert Tessa Tennant, Eden Project founder Tim Smit; and the human rights and climate change advocate Bianca Jagger.

Some foundations have already begun to take action on climate change through the ‘divest-invest’ coalition which brought together 40 organisations with assets of £1.2bn in a pledge to pull out of fossil fuels and switch to clean energy.

However, a recent report from the World Meteorological Organisation showed that work still needs to be done, with global greenhouse gas emissions now at a thirty-year high.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the one-day New York summit, which takes place next Tuesday (23 September), is an opportunity for ‘governments, cities, business, finance and civil society to showcase what they are doing to promote the transformative change we know we need’.

Brad Allen

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