THE BLOG

Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign Spreads to Europe

10/17/2013 01:47 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014
  • Jamie Henn Co-founder and Communications Director, 350.org

The fast growing fossil fuel divestment campaign is headed to Europe.

This Oct. 27 to Nov. 1, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and allies like Greenpeace International's executive director Kumi Naidoo will lead a speaking tour to five cities in Europe to help spark a continent-wide divestment effort.

The tour is modeled on 2012's successful "Do The Math" tour which sold out venues in 21 cities across the United States and jumpstarted the fossil fuel divestment movement that has now spread to over 300 colleges and universities, 100 cities and states, and dozens of religious institutions across America.

Last June, 350.org replicated the tour in Australia and New Zealand (where they called it "Do the Maths"), helping launch a divestment campaign down-under. The tour there was equally successful, garnering national media attention and quickly scoring a few early victories, with a number of large churches committing to divestment and the New Zealand Greens adopting the goal.

Since the first Do The Math tour over a year ago, the case for divestment has only grown stronger as the movement grows. The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reiterated the math which the tour helped to bring to light: that the fossil fuel industry has five times more carbon in its reserves than we can safely burn and still keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. That bombshell was first elucidated by the Carbon Tracker Institute in the UK and has subsequently been backed up by reports from the World Bank, HSBC, International Energy Agency, and more.

To put it another way, all of these organizations have concluded that the current business plan of the fossil fuel industry is incompatible with sustaining human civilization as we know it. Hence, the need for a powerful divestment campaign.

Thankfully, the divestment campaign is gaining strength every day. Last week, the University of Oxford released a study concluding that current effort is the fastest growing divestment campaign in history and poses a far-reaching and serious threat to the fossil fuel industry's bottom line.

Europe is the next front in the growing movement. Home to some of the largest stock exchanges and corporations in the world, making progress in Europe will be key if the divestment effort wants to pose a serious threat to the fossil fuel industry.

At the moment, divestment campaigns are furthest along in the UK, where the organization People & Planet is spearheading an effort on university campuses. A parallel movement is underway at religious institutions across the country, led by organizations like Project Noah and Bright Now. Last week, the UK Quakers, who helped lead the fight against the British Empire's slave trade in the 19th century, signed on to support the new divestment campaign.

Divestment efforts are also sprouting up in countries like Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, where the Swedish Centre Party -- part of Sweden's four-party government coalition -- has called on the country's pension funds, which manage $146 billion in assets, to sell off their fossil fuel stocks.

This month's Fossil Free Europe tour will aim to inspire even more activism across the continent, as well as connect European efforts with the movement in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The fossil fuel industry is the most powerful industry on the planet. Now, a global movement is rising up to confront it.