How Does Fossil Fuel Divestment Relate to Climate Justice?
We are under no illusion that fossil fuel divestment will radically change the political situation and the companies from which we divest. It is rather a socioeconomic and political tactic, a way of raising awareness and bringing public scrutiny and opprobrium to those who trash the planet for a big year-end bonus.
The fossil fuel divestment movement has grown rapidly and gained significant momentum, not only with universities, but with pension funds, municipalities, faith-based endowments, and other institutional investors whose organizations have a moral and ethical component. But divestment is only a small part of the larger goal of climate justice. It addresses the need to hold educational, religious, and political institutions accountable for our need to mitigate climate change. It empowers students, schools, places of worship, city councils, labor organizers, and community leaders to face, and then voice, the fact that our current political and economic system does not serve society anymore, but rather the interests of the wealthy few.
We no longer want to fund an industry that is happily profiting from climate change while people die, and the Earth is destroyed. Sure, others will initially buy the stocks that our endowments sell, but as the broader divestment movement grows, the market for those stocks will shrink, and when demand shrinks, share prices fall. However, the divestment movement does not seek to hurt the fossil fuel industry financially. That is impossible, given the grotesque amount of wealth the industry has. The near-term goal of divestment is to revoke the social license of the fossil fuel industry, as well as raise awareness about climate change and climate justice issues. We also seek to expose the dysfunctionality of the political and diplomatic power structures that are meant to serve us, but instead end up serving the elites who control the resources.
Our long-term goals are to:
- shift the way people think about climate change.
- help people connect the dots on how the current economic growth paradigm creates ecological degradation.
- incite bold action by local and national leaders.
- empower people to step up, voice their opinions, and enact grassroots change.
Moreover, through divestment comes the opportunity for reinvestment. It opens the doors to investing in communities, green infrastructure, and other just causes. By investing, one encourages what one wants to see more of in the world. Should the university endowment be invested in one of the principal sources of climate change?
What would a climate-just world look like?