What is divestment?
Cambridge University has £5bn worth of investments on the stock market (iii). Divestment – or “dis-investment” is the process of making sure none of this is invested in unethical companies.
In our case, we’re asking the University to withdraw all investments from fossil fuel companies and make a policy not to invest in them in future.
There are compelling arguments for divestment, both moral and financial.
But does divestment really work?
As regards fossil fuels, the divestment campaign is the fastest growing climate justice campaign in history! So far, $2.6tn has been divested from fossil fuels by 462 institutions (iv)!
As for historic divestment campaigns, the best-known campaign was the divestment campaign against South African Apartheid. During the 1980s, a mass of Universities, local governments and other organisations withdrew almost $350m of investments from South Africa. This campaign is credited with helping generate a groundswell of opinion against the South African regime, and with contributing to its eventual collapse (v).
So, divestment has made a real difference in the past, and we’re confident it can do so again!
Why does divestment matter so much to you? Why not pursue other approaches to tackling climate change?
Divestment matters because of its symbolic power.
Governments around the world are still pumping $540bn into the fossil fuels industry every year (vi). When you take into account factors like the health costs of fossil fuels – almost always covered by governments – this skyrockets to $5.3tn a year (vii)! This dwarfs the $120bn spent on renewables (viii).
What does this tell us? That we need a rapid moral and cultural shift away from fossil fuels. We have to aggressively challenge the immense cultural authority and privileged political position of fossil fuels. Divestment is the most effective way of doing that.