November 1, 2013

LONDON, UK – After a week-long, whistle-stop tour across Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Scotland, and England, the Fossil Free Europe Tour concludes in London this evening, officially launching the fossil fuel divestment campaign in Europe.

“Wherever we go, people are coming to the same conclusion: if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage,” said tour-headliner Bill McKibben, the American writer, environmentalist, and co-founder of the international climate campaign, “This divestment campaign is growing faster than we ever expected—and beginning to have exactly the effect we hoped.”

According to a recent study by the University of Oxford, the fossil fuel divestment campaign is growing faster than any previous divestment effort and poses a “far-reaching” threat to the fossil fuel industry’s bottom line. The campaign has already spread to over 400 colleges, cities, and religious institutions in the United States and is growing quickly in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and across Europe.

The effort has picked up some early victories in Europe, with the town of Boxtel, Netherlands announcing that they will divest from fossil fuels, the University of Surrey shifting investments away from two unnamed fossil fuel funds, while the Quakers in Britain took steps to disinvest from companies engaged in extracting fossil fuels making them the first UK Christian denomination to do so.

“We can no longer invest in companies that are part of the problem of the climate shocks we’re suffering from,” said former Irish president and U.N. high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson, in an interview with Democracy Now! on Tuesday. “To me it’s a little bit like the energy behind the anti-apartheid movement when I was a student. We were involved because we saw the injustice of it. There’s an injustice in continuing to invest in fossil fuel companies that are part of the problem.”

The Fossil Free divestment campaign has grown especially quickly in the UK, where partners People & Planet and Operation Noah are spreading the effort at universities and churches, respectively.

“In the last month, student groups have already launched Fossil Free divestment campaigns at 25 universities, including the richest ones like Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh, reflecting the momentum and urgency behind this global campaign » said Louise Hazan, Climate Change Campaigns Manager at People & Planet. « In the UK, our universities are fuelling the climate crisis to the tune of £5bn every year, and People & Planet is demanding they take responsibility by aligning their investments with their public pronouncements on climate change.”

“Churches continue to have a powerful moral voice in UK society and politics” said Isabel Carter Chair of Operation Noah, the environmental and faith organisation who have recently launched Bright Now, a fossil fuel divestment campaign focused on UK churches. “We want them to demonstrate their faith commitment to ‘love your neighbour’ and to be good stewards of the earth by stopping investment in an industry that already causes suffering to many people across the globe. No Church can continue to claim with integrity to be taking action on climate change whilst profiting from companies that create it.”

Along the tour, McKibben and were joined by organizations including Urgewald and Klima-allianz Deutschland in Germany, Urgenda and Greenpeace in the Netherlands, and People & Planet and Operation Noah in the UK.

“While Germany has taken important steps towards clean energy, our banks and public institutions are still financing climate disaster,” said Kathrin Petz, with Urgewald in Germany, who partnered with on the first stop of the tour, in Berlin. “This has to stop and we are grateful for the Fossil Free Europe tour to give a boost for a divestment campaign across Germany.”

Inspired by the divestment movement in the US, Urgenda sought to bring the campaign to the Netherlands where four student groups are already active in divestment campaigns. In the words of Marjan Minnesma, director of Urgenda “This is a promising movement which will definitely contribute to solving the climate crisis. »

The campaign has already succeeded expanding public awareness about the threat of a “carbon bubble” resulting from the devaluation of fossil fuel companies as they are forced to leave 60-80% of their coal, oil and gas reserves underground. On 29 October, former US vice-president Al Gore and London based asset manager David Blood published an article in the Wall Street Journal warning of the far-reaching impacts of the carbon bubble and urged investors to begin divesting from fossil fuel stocks.

“The Fossil Free Europe Tour is a bold initiative, catalyzing a movement around divestment from fossil fuels and we are already starting to see results – the movement is getting bigger and stronger,” said Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo, who joined the tour in Amsterdam and London. “We need carbon liability for those who are destroying our future on this planet and those who profit from it.”