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Divestment - Making Money Moral

April 10, 2015 12:54 PM
By Simon Oliver in West Midlands Newswire

Recently Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey made an extraordinary statement. He urged people to take their money out of fossil fuels, saying they risk their investments in stranded assets.


"But we must shift away from fossil fuel investments into clean energy over the next two decades. Government policy here and abroad must facilitate that with strong regulations - particularly on transparency and disclosure, with new reporting requirements on firms and financial institutions about their fossil fuel assets."

This is part of a movement that began in US universities and has now spread right across the world and being reported extensively in the Guardian and elsewhere. Activists are demanding that large investors make the moral choice, and invest their money elsewhere - not in companies that continue to pursue the dead-end strategy of digging up fossil fuels.

Ed's contribution is timely and useful, as we approach a critical UN summit in Paris in December, and voice after voice is being raised in alarm at the slowness and lack of ambition in the global response to the climate crisis. Making a clear statement that institutions investing in coal, oil and gas are putting their money at risk is falling on receptive ears.

I assert that there is a moral dimension, in that such investments cannot be justified in moral terms. Ed focuses on the financial probity argument, which points out that decisions we make at a global level will render these assets worthless.

There is more to it than that, though. Increasingly investors, fossil fuel companies and governments are finding themselves the target of class actions, seeking real damages for climate-related disasters.


We could see a time, not so far off, when civil and criminal prosecutions establish precedent for such liability. We've already seen the beginnings of this with the Kingsnorth coal plant protests, where the jury ruled six activists to be not guilty of trespass and criminal damage because they were trying to prevent more widespread damage from climate change.


The climate has changed. Scientific certainty means that divestment has become an urgent necessity. Have you talked to your pension provider about how they assess these risks? Are your constituents aware of the financial threat to their pensions and investments?

Simon Oliver
Chair, Green Liberal Democrats

This article first appeared in West Midlands Newswire