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Speeding up and scaling up finance into clean energy and energy efficiency, greening infrastructure, sustaining ecosystems like forests and coral reefs and enabling countries and communities to adapt is essential to staying below 2C degrees. Check out what's happening and how to benefit.

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The European divestment movement took a step forward as Glasgow University announced that it would sell oil, gas and coal holdings valued at $18.7 million yesterday. While 13 academic institutions have already committed to divestment in the United States, Glasgow University is believed to be the first academic institution in Europe to do so, and campaigners hope that other leading universities in other parts of the world will soon follow suit. 

Following a campaign that was led by the university’s Climate Society and involving about 1300 students, a vote in the University Court on Wednesday confirmed the move. David Newall, Secretary of the Court, welcomed the decision and said “over the coming years we will steadily reduce our investments in the fossil fuel extraction industry, while also taking steps to reduce our carbon consumption.” 

UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, has previously called upon investors to take climate change into account when making investment decisions. At the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in 2012 she said

Pensions, life insurances and nest eggs of billions of ordinary people depend on the long-term security and stability of institutional investment funds. Climate change increasingly poses one of the biggest long-term threats to those investments and the wealth of the global economy.

In May of this year, she addressed the issue in a speech at St Paul's in London, during which she encouraged the audience to ask their pension fund managers how they are planning to deal with stranded assets, and in which she expressed her belief in the power of the divestment movement:

We have done this with slavery and with apartheid. It is time to do it with climate change.

Global Momentum for Divestment Growing

The announcement by Glasgow University adds to a growing list of divestment commitments, boosted by announcements during Climate Week last month. In New York, around 800 philanthropists, representing US$50 billion, committed to divest their fossil fuel holdings over the next five years.

Stephen Heintz from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund said at the time:  “We are quite convinced that if [John D Rockefeller] were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and invest in clean, renewable energy.” This week another divestment success story involves the Australian pension fund Local Government Super, which announced that it would sell its AU$25 million worth of holdings in companies that generate more than 30% of their revenues from coal use. Earlier, in July, the World Council of Churches, representing over half a billion of Christians, announced that it would divest from fossil fuels.

According to a study of the University of Oxford the campaign is growing faster than any previous divestment movement, including those against tobacco and against apartheid in South Africa.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks about the important role that divestment plays in tackling climate change:


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