Op-Ed, 617 words

Make Your Investments Fuel Change

We're igniting some Wall Street heat.

Lisa_RenstromChuck Collins

People around the world are pressing their leaders to act on climate change and fueling change on their own.

With U.S. political leadership on climate policy in a shambles, many Americans are taking matters into their own hands. Nearly 400,000 people marched in New York City to call for a stronger response to climate change. Hundreds of thousands more joined this chorus at another 2,800 marches in 166 other countries.

Invest in Life Graphic

350maine.org/Flickr

We decided to do our part by igniting some Wall Street heat. Our achievement? Building a platform where people can pledge to divest from assets tied to the old fossil-fueled economy and invest in the emerging new energy economy powered by more sustainable alternatives.

In April, we became the first Divest-Invest Individual signatories. More than 750 people have since joined us, bringing the total volume of pledged assets to over $2.8 billion. Some of us fossil-free investors have small 401k plans while others wield large investment portfolios. A few are famous, including actor Mark Ruffalo and billionaire Tom Steyer. We all share a principled commitment to fossil-free investments for our future.

We’re joining college endowments and other non-profit and private institutions — and increasingly, local governments in a broad-based effort. To date, people and organizations have collectively pledged to move $50 billion out of the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies and into climate solutions.

This is the kind of people-powered effort that can slow the pace of climate change. We will ramp up as global leaders work out the commitments they’ll make at the next big climate summit — scheduled to take place in Paris at the end of next year.

We’re pressing for real and fast-paced climate solutions so the Paris summit doesn’t lead to the same kind of toothless declaration that the Copenhagen climate summit yielded in 2009.

Additional street heat is emanating from efforts focusing on everything from energy efficiency to building more resilient communities and vibrant local economies.

The global divestment movement already spans some 550 universities, cities, states, and religious institutions across the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe.

This reach goes even further than that. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has embraced it. He’s urging the world to adopt the tactics that brought an end to South Africa’s racist apartheid system against the worst carbon polluters.

“It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future,” he has said. “To serve as custodians of creation is not an empty title; it requires that we act, and with all the urgency this dire situation demands.”

The Divest-Invest movement aims to revoke the social license of fossil fuel industries that obstruct effective policy responses to today’s climate emergency. Together, we’re accelerating the urgently needed redirection of capital toward an array of new energy economy options.

Individual investors don’t need to wait for governments to get their act together to help avert climate catastrophe. You can resolve today to move your dollars out of destructive fossil fuels and into a renewable energy future.

You’ll be making a moral statement by breaking your financial ties with the engine of a dirty economy and taking a smart long-term step by shielding your own investments from future financial risk and volatility.

To finally reach a real turning point in climate policy, each of us needs to fully engage. We all need to let our leaders know that we want to see real climate action, and do what’s within our power to change the current paradigm.

We hope our leaders get the message. In the meantime, everyone can put their money where their mouth is — as individual investors, students and alumni of higher education institutions, members of religious institutions, and stakeholders in local governments.

Lisa Renstrom and Chuck Collins are the co-founders of Divest-Invest Individual, a movement of individual investors divesting from oil, gas, and coal and investing in the emerging new energy economy. You can take the fossil-free investment pledge at DivestInvest.org/Individual
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