CAPE TOWN – Institutional investors holding assets worth $11 trillion have now pledged to divest from fossil fuel assets, a significant jump in the number committing to clean energy, a report said on Monday.
A growing number of investment and wealth funds have been looking to pull away from fossil fuels and shift to renewables, especially since the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
The $11 trillion figure was released in a report as part of the “Financing the Future” summit in Cape Town for advocates for investment in clean energy transition.
More than 1,000 institutional investors are committed to dropping fossil fuel assets, including wealth funds, banks, insurance firms as well as scores of city councils, universities, and religious organizations.
By comparison, institutional investors with holdings of $52 billion in assets had made the same commitment in 2014.
“We are seeing a clear shift away from fossil fuel investments in every sector,” said Clara Vondrich, director of Divest-Invest, one of the report authors.
“Coal, oil, and gas assets are being recognized as toxic — not just morally due to the climate crisis but also increasingly financially.”
The $11 trillion figure represents around 16 percent of the total global equity markets in 2018, the organizers said, citing World Bank figures.
Activists for fossil fuel divestment say it is one way to reduce carbon emissions by pressing investors to get rid of shares, bonds or other assets in those companies.
Across all business sectors, global companies responding to pressure from society and shareholders are looking for low-emissions ways for growth that are “Paris-compliant.
But oil and gas projects set up by major fossil fuel companies over the last 20 months threaten both shareholder value and efforts to keep Earth from overheating, according to an analysis released last week.
Greenhouse gas emissions stemming from new investments totaling $50 billion could push already tough Paris climate treaty goals for capping global warming out of reach, warned Carbon Tracker, a non-profit financial think tank.
Earth’s average surface temperature has gone up 1 degree Celsius since the late 19th century, and is on track — at current rates of CO2 emissions — to warm another two or three degrees by century’s end.
The Paris Agreement calls on humanity to block the rise in Earth’s temperature at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels, and 1.5 degrees if possible.