DIVESTMENT: THE MORAL CASE

According to the World Health Organization 150,000 people are already dying every single year as a direct result of human-caused climate change. Seven million die as a direct result of air pollution. Over 50% of the world's coral reefs are already dead or dying. Mammals have already been pushed to extinction as a result of climate change. 

The moral case for taking action on climate change has never been stronger.

Fossil fuel divestment plays a vital role in fighting climate change in a number of ways: 

  • Divestment a direct financial impact on the fossil fuel industry.

    • This is vital if we are to keep to the goal of curtailing catastrophic global warming, as was noted by the world's foremost body of experts working on the problem of global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A body of over 1200 scientists from over 100 countries, the most recent IPCC report found that we need to reduce annual investment in fossil fuels by at least $30 billion per year in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. They have also stressed that annual investment in low carbon electricity supply will have to grow by some $147 billion a year. Divestment can play an important role in helping to achieve that.

  • Divestment stigmatizes the fossil fuel industry and removes its social license.

    • Every time an institution divests itself from fossil fuels they are chipping away at the social license with which these companies operate. When entities like the $900 billion Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, the $18 billion Stanford University fund, and the $6 billion endowment of the Church of England join the divestment movement, a very strong point is being made. 

      This is important as stigmatizing fossil fuel companies helps to create a political environment in which political action curtailing the power of the fossil fuel industry is more likely. 

      This was found in this historical study of divestment campaigns, by a team of researchers from Oxford University, who found that:  “in almost every divestment campaign (…) from adult services to Darfur, from tobacco to South Africa, divestment campaigns were successful in lobbying for restricting legislation affecting stigmatized firms.”

      In this sense it is the goal of the divestment movement is to confer on oil companies the same status as tobacco companies, thus opening up the political space required to make other important demands on the industry – such as bans on political donations and advertising, and limits on further high-risk exploration.
       

That the fossil fuel divestment movement can play a key role in fighting climate change, one of the gravest threats to all life on Earth makes divesting from fossil fuels a very clear moral issue -- and one that we believe the City of Seattle has a moral obligation to lead on.
 


The City of Seattle could become the first city in the United States to vote to fully divest from fossil fuels. This is important as it would set an exciting precedent and have a very powerful ripple effect throughout the rest of the country

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