Canberra, 3rd December: The first Global Day of Divestment was announced today at a press conference in Canberra. The global day of action will take place on the 13th and 14th February in five continents with a range of activities to build the momentum of the divestment movement ahead of the UN Climate Talks in Paris 2015.
In Australia, individuals working on the frontlines of climate change will call for individuals and institutions to ‘break up’ with fossil fuels on Valentines Day and become a part of the solution to the climate crisis:
“30 years ago religious institutions were amongst the first to divest from companies operating in countries whose governments systematically abused human rights, notably apartheid South Africa. We did this to respond to intentional harm and intractable resistance, because we knew such systems to be morally wrong. I’m now calling on religious institutions and people of faith to once again align their money with their responsibility – to care for people and the to give high priority to sustainability and stop investing in fossil fuel industries,” stated Dr Beth Heyde of the Public Affairs Commission of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia.
So far, 181 institutions and local governments representing over USD$50 billion in assets have pledged to divest from fossil fuels. According to a study by Oxford University, the fossil fuel divestment movement is growing faster than any previous divestment campaign in history and presents a far reaching threat to the fossil fuel industry’s bottom-line.
“Changing climate brings extreme weather conditions, including more frequent and more severe bushfires. This is a workplace issue for firefighters – our jobs are dangerous enough already without these added challenges. The divestment campaign is an opportunity for all of us to take action on this issue,” said Jim Casey from the NSW Firefighters Union.
“In many parts of Australia, farmers are experiencing the lowest rainfall in generations yet coal and gas companies have been given the lion’s share of high priority water. As a nation we cannot continue to support an industry whose activities are our ability to feed ourselves. It’s time to divest and re-invest in sustainable industries. ,” said Peter Martin, former CEO of Rothschild Australia Asset Management and Southern Highlands farmer.
Since the divestment movement began in Australia in July 2012, 10 institutions and over 2000 individuals have publicly divested from fossil fuels by selling off shares in companies which support coal, oil and gas exploration and export and by closing accounts with banks and super funds which finance fossil fuels. AMP, Hunter Hall, UniSuper, HESTA and Local Government Super have also divested from some or all fossil fuels in 2014.
“Dangerous climate change, fuelled by fossil fuel expansion, is the greatest single threat to human health in the 21st century. Just as health advocates called for divestment from tobacco, so too are we here today to call for fossil fuel divestment. There is no safe level of climate change, just as there is no safe level of tobacco.” said Dr Elizabeth Hanna, National Centre of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Australian National University.
The Australian National University recently faced weeks of controversy following its decision to divest $16 million from seven miners, including Santos and Oil Search, as part of a review of its responsible investment policy. The move was criticised by six senior ministers including Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey.
ANU student divestment campaigner Tom Swann said “the outrageous reaction to ANU’s small divestment decision shows shows just how powerful divestment can be. It shows we need more of this kind of leadership. Students today will see dangerous disruption in decades unless we keep most carbon underground, yet the political influence of the fossil fuel industry allows it to keep expanding. Universities must act on the urgent message from their own research and stand up for their students’ future” Mr Swann said.
Global Divestment Day activities will take place cities across Australia and are expected to see a surge in divestment commitments from individual and institutional investors. The day is organised by 350.org Australia in partnership with Greenpeace, Market Forces, Doctors for the Environment, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change and Fossil Free Universities.
WHEN: 11:15 Wednesday 3rd December
WHERE: Federation Mall, in front of Parliament House
- Jim Casey, Leader of the Fire Brigade Employees Union
- Peter Martin, Southern Highlands farmer and former CEO of Rothschild Australia Asset Management
- Dr Elizabeth Hanna, ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health
- Dr Beth Heyde, Public Affairs Commission of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia
- Tom Swann, Fossil Free ANU Convenor
- Glenn Fowler, Australian Education Union
- Charlie Wood, 350.org Australia Campaigns Director – 0427 485 233
- May Ng, 350.org Communications Coordinator – 0420 733 429
Australian Global Divestment Day Website: http://350.org.au/gdd