Global Divestment Day: Campaigners call for end of fossil fuel investment

Thousands joined rallies across the UK over the weekend to call on major organisations to stop investing in the fossil fuel industry as part of the first Global Divestment Day.

The Fossil Free campaign is asking investors to pledge that they will dispose of their investments in the biggest 200 fossil fuel companies over the next five years

The Fossil Free campaign is asking investors to pledge that they will dispose of their investments in the biggest 200 fossil fuel companies over the next five years

The Fossil Free campaign is asking investors to pledge that they will dispose of their investments in the biggest 200 fossil fuel companies over the next five years.

Here in the UK, hundreds gathered outside City Hall in London aiming to convince the Greater London Authority (GLA) to vote to divest from the fossil fuel industry when they meet next month. Banks were also targeted by the protest with 1,400 UK customers closing their accounts in protest to multibillion-pound funding of the fossil fuel industry.

'Liveable future'

According to the campaign, universities are estimated to have £5.2bn invested in companies such as BP and Shell. However, 22 universities have already joined the movement and were involved in yesterday's rallies. 

People & Planet Fossil Free campaign coordinator Miriam Wilson said: "Students from across the UK have taken part in Global Divestment Day because they believe it's time for universities to break up with the fossil fuel industry. 

"They have made clear that it's time to ditch this technology of the past and start re-investing in a liveable future. In just a year and a half the divestment movement has spread to nearly 60 campuses across UK, and looks set to gain even more victories over the coming months."

The campaign was particularly timely as a cross-party agreement was signed to tackle climate change on Friday - a move welcomed by business leaders, politicians and activists around the globe. David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg agreed commitments to an internationally binding deal at Paris 2015, a promise to end unabated coal power generation and pledged to agree a Carbon Budget in accordance with the Climate Change Act.

Early deaths

Danielle Paffard, UK divestment campaigner at 350.org, said: "The British public's engagement with the UK divestment movement has been overwhelming and has sent a clear message to this stagnant industry. 

"Investors are now turning their backs on coal, oil and gas companies because they are no longer a safe bet. This is the first global step towards illustrating how divestment is crucial to addressing the global impact that this industry is having on our climate and human health."

Health charity Medact recently released a report warning how investment in the fossil fuel industry is incompatible with health organisations as fossil fuels account for 29,000 early deaths in the UK each year. Medact found that charitable foundation the Wellcome Trust has holdings of £450m in four of the major fossil fuel extraction companies.

Globally, more than 180 institutions with over £30bn in assets have already committed to divest. Campaigners continued to raise awareness for the cause by holding events in the Pacific Islands, the Vatican and Nepal yesterday. A candlelit vigil was also held in Tacloban, a part of the Philippines hit by the typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and a major new campaign targeting the United State's largest pension funds called CaIPERS was launched in California. 

Video: Global Divestment Day 2015

Lucinda Dann


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