Clean energy coalition forms

A COALITION of 17 US and international foundations with an asset base of nearly $2 billion has announced it will divest from fossil fuel companies and invest in clean energy ones.

Noel Dyson

Wallace Global Fund executive director Ellen Dorsey is originator of the divest-invest plan.

“Starting today we pledge to use all of our assets – not just the usual 5% yearly payment of grants – to advance our goals, values and beliefs,” she said.

The Divest-Invest Philanthropy Coalition includes foundations such as The John Merck Fund, Park Foundation and the Russell Family Foundation in the US and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in the UK.

The John Merck Fund executive director Ruth Hennig said while markets were yet to internalise climate risks, members of Divest-Invest Philanthropy were guided by science in taking this step.

The coalition emphasised the financial and ethical risks of remaining invested in fossil fuels when the climate science was clear the window to preserve a liveable client was closing fast.

RBC wealth management financial advisor Tom Van Dyck said the financial risks of staying invested in fossil fuels were high because two-thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves simply could not be burned “yet the markets treat this basic physics like its science fiction”

“Either coal, oil and gas deposits become stranded assets or we do,” he said.

At a January 15 conference of investors with more than $US20 trillion in combined assets, United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres said investment decisions had to reflect the scientific evidence and fiduciary responsibility needed to grasp the reality that unchecked climate change could impact and eventually devastate the lives of many.

Russell Family Foundation CEO Richard Woo said the foundation was divesting and reinvesting to align its portfolio with its values, accelerate the growth in renewable energy and protect the long-term value of its investments.

“Given the urgency we call on all philanthropy to do the same,” he said.

Divest-Invest Philanthropy is following in the footsteps of the global fossil-fuel free movement.

More than 50 institutions in the US, including nearly two dozen cities, have committed to divest.

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