This was written by Damian Carrington:
1. Divestment from fossil fuels will result in the end of modern civilization.
It is true that most of today’s energy, and many useful things such as plastics and fertilizers, come from fossil fuels. But the divestment campaign is not arguing for an end of all fossil fuel use starting tomorrow, with everyone heading back to caves to light a campfire. Instead it is arguing that the burning of fossil fuels at increasing rates is driving global warming, which is the actual threat to modern civilization. Despite already having at least three times more proven reserves than the world’s governments agree can be safely burned, fossil fuel companies are spending huge sums exploring for more. Looked at in that way, pulling investments from companies committed to throwing more fuel on the climate change fire makes sense.
2. We all use fossil fuels everyday, so divestment is hypocritical.
Again, no one is arguing for an overnight end of all fossil fuel use. Instead, the 350.org group which is leading the divestment campaign calls for investors to commit to selling off their coal, oil and gas investments over five years. Fossil fuel burning will continue after that too, but the point is to reverse today’s upward trend of ever more carbon emissions into a downward trend of ever less carbon emissions. Furthermore, some of those backing a “divest-invest” strategy move money into the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors, which have already begun driving the transition to a low-carbon world.
3. Divestment is not meaningful action – it’s just gesture politics.
The dumping of a few fossil few stocks makes no immediate difference at all to the amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. But this entirely misses the point of divestment, which aims to remove the legitimacy of a fossil fuel industry whose current business model will lead to “severe, widespread and irreversible” impacts on people. Divestment works by stigmatizing, as pointed out in a report from Oxford University:
“The outcome of the stigmatization process poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies. Any direct impacts pale in comparison.”
The “gesture politics” criticism also ignores the political power of the fossil fuel industry, which spent over $400m on lobbying and political donations in 2012 in the US alone. Undercutting that lobbying makes it easier for politicians to take action and the Oxford study showed that previous divestment campaigns – against apartheid South Africa, tobacco and Darfur – were all followed by restrictive new laws.
Those comparisons also highlight the moral dimension at the heart of the divestment campaign. Another dimension is warning investors that their fossil fuel assets may lose their value, if climate change is tackled. Lastly, backing divestment does not mean giving up putting direct pressure on politicians to act or any other climate change campaign.
READ MORE of this article at The Guardian HERE.