|Photo credit: Trillion Fund
By Rebecca Cooke
The latest fund to announce its divestment from fossil fuels is none other then the heir to the Rockefeller fortune, built on oil and coal. Coinciding with yesterdays UN Climate Change Summit in New York, the Rockefeller Brother’s Fund said that not only would it pull vast sums of money out of fossil fuels, but that it would funnel the money into clean energy.
This latest announcement is further evidence that the divestment movement is unstoppably gaining traction and snowballing, fast. Institutions across the globe have begun to pledge to divest from fossil fuels in support of the climate change campaign. This list includes the British Medical Association and the Church of Sweden. The combined asset size of the 837 institutions and individuals committing to divest amounts to more than $50 billion, campaign group 350.org has calculated.
The move towards rapid divestment form individuals and institutions has been a result of support for the climate change movement. The demand for climate change action was evident on Sunday when an estimated 40,000 people took to the streets of London for the Peoples Climate March, which saw over 2,000 protests take place around the world in a bid to make world leaders take solid action towards a stopping climate change.
The movement also took New York by storm as well as Rio, Jakarta, Brisbane and hundreds of cities around the world. In New York, many of the 50,000 students, faith groups, state contingents, and groups carrying banners representing cities or towns, also wore orange squares representing fossil fuel divestment.
Records show that 181 institutions and local governments and 656 individuals representing over $50 billion dollars have pledged to divest to-date.
That number includes the $860 million which will be redirected from fossil fuels by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The report indicates that divestment commitments have doubled in the eight months since January 2014.
Yet carbon dioxide emissions, the main contributor to global warming, are set to rise again in 2014 – reaching a record high of 40 billion tonnes, according to research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The 2.5 per cent projected rise in burning fossil fuels has been revealed by the Global Carbon Project, which is co-led in the UK by researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA and the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at theUniversity of Exeter.
The latest annual update of the Global Carbon Budget shows that total future CO2 emissions cannot exceed 1,200 billion tonnes – for a likely 66 per cent chance of keeping average global warming under two degrees Celsius.
At the current rate of CO2 emissions, this 1,200 billion tonne CO2 ‘quota’ would be used up in around 30 years. This means that there is just one generation before the safeguards to a two degrees limit may be breached.
To avoid this, a team of international climate scientists have said that more than half of all fossil fuel reserves may need to be left in the ground and are essentially ‘unburnable’.
Professor Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre at UEA, said: “The human influence on climate change is clear. “We need substantial and sustained reductions in CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels if we are to limit global climate change. We are nowhere near the commitments necessary to stay below two degrees celsius of climate change, a level that will be already challenging to manage for most countries around the world, even for rich nations.
“Politicians meeting in New York need to think very carefully about their diminishing choices exposed by climate science.”
Professor Pierre Friedlingstein, from the University of Exeter, said: “The time for a quiet evolution in our attitudes towards climate change is now over. Delaying action is not an option – we need to act together, and act quickly, if we are to stand a chance of avoiding climate change not long into the future, but within many of our own lifetimes.
He added: “We have already used two-thirds of the total amount of carbon we can burn, in order to keep warming below the crucial two degrees Celsius level. If we carry on at the current rate we will reach our limit in as little as 30 years’ time – and that is without any continued growth in emission levels. The implication of no immediate action is worryingly clear – either we take a collective responsibility to make a difference, and soon, or it will be too late.”
Rebecca Cooke is Trillion Fund’s content editor. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in Journalism from The University of Sheffield in 2012.
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