A Good Summer for Divestment

protesters with signs saying "fossil free california"

For climate activists, this will be a summer to remember. The last few weeks have produced a flood of good news for divestment campaigns:

  1. The IEA report “Net Zero by 2050” – stated flatly that there should be no new fossil fuel projects.
  1. President Joe Biden issued a sweeping Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risk and put forward a budget that ends fossil fuel subsidies.
  1. Chevron – 61% of shareholders said the company must cut Scope 3 emissions.
  1. Shell – a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030.
  1. Exxon – activist hedge fund Engine No. 1 won a proxy fight that forced Exxon to seat 3 new climate-competent directors. [See Victory for Engagement at Exxon: It’s Not Enough“].
  1. The State of Maine passed groundbreaking fossil fuel divestment legislation.
  1. The United States Joint Staff Pension Fund pledged to cut the emissions in its portfolio 40% by 2025, through a combination of divestment and engagement.

Bill McKibben and others hailed Wednesday, May 26 (the date of the defeats of Exxon, Chevron, and Shell) as a “day of reckoning” for Big Oil:

Although even institutional investors are joining the chorus calling for a decline in extracting, mining, distributing, and consuming fossil fuels, the power of the oil majors is still huge, pervasive and relentless. Fossil fuel companies continue to get special treatment: Big Oil got “bailout” money from Covid relief funds; and it is still receiving large government subsidies, still controlling politicians in every state in the country, and still slowing the transition to a sustainable world. 

Despite the engagement progress, engagement alone is not enough. Given the accelerating pace of climate change, it has also become clear that market-based solutions are too slow, and “net-zero by 2050” pledges are meaningless without concrete near-term milestones that don’t depend on pipe dreams of carbon capture.

Please join us in celebrating these remarkable recent events as new, important milestones, but there’s still a long road ahead. Solar and wind are growing fast, but still provide only 10% of our electricity, and electric vehicles are only 2% of our transportation. And our California pension funds still have more than $50 billion invested in fossil fuels!  Without divestment from fossil fuels, California – and its pension funds – cannot meet their climate goals.

As the pandemic eases and we can gather again in person, Fossil Free California is excited about what we can achieve this year with our strong alliances with Climate Youth organizations, and with our new, more collaborative organizational structure coordinated by our Coordinating Director Miriam Eide. As we go into this crucial, transformational year of action, we need your support more than ever.  Help us ramp up our outreach, consolidate our coalitions, and continue our progress with educators’ and public employees’ unions, student activists, and retirees.

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