Breaking up with Fossil Fuels on Valentines
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.
On February 13 and 14, there will be events around the world celebrating the first global divestment day initiated by the environmental group 350.org in order to promote divestment of fossil fuels by governments, organizations, and businesses, even fossil fuel companies themselves. Last week, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, a $850 billion fund, revealed that it has been divesting from 114 companies, mainly coal mining groups, over the past three years in order to combat climate change.
With us to discuss the issues and events taking place across the U.S. on this inaugural global divestment day is Jenny Marienau. She is joining us from California. She manages the U.S. Fossil Free Campaign and has organized with 350.org since the launch of the fossil fuel divestment campaign in 2012.
Jenny, thank you so much for joining us today.
JENNY MARIENAU, US DIVESTMENT CAMPAIGN MANAGER, 350.ORG: Thanks for having me.
PERIES: So, before we talk to Jenny, let’s have a look at the campaign promo.
PERIES: So, Jenny, let me begin with asking you what are the real objectives of this campaign. What are you hoping to achieve?
MARIENAU: Great. We launched the divestment campaign from fossil fuels in 2012 as a response to the stranglehold the fossil fuel industry has over global politics and global economies. And the real heart of the message is that if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit off of that wreckage. And so the point of the divestment campaign is to have institutions like colleges, universities, state institutions, cities, states, and even nations pull their money out of the fossil fuel industry and invest in the kind of future they really want to see.
PERIES: Jenny, this is a great strategy for divesting from companies that are creating fossil fuels, polluting our air, and making it toxic. Are you having some recommendations as to where that money should be reinvested?
MARIENAU: We love the idea of reinvesting in the kind of world that these organizations really want to see. So reinvestment in clean energy is a great idea. Reinvestment in community-based solutions to the climate crisis are a great way to put your money where your mission is. We don’t recommend particular investments, because we’re not financial advisers.
PERIES: And the reason why you thought this was very important in terms of a campaign?
MARIENAU: The reason it’s important is because, frankly, the fossil fuel industry has a stranglehold over our political systems, our economic systems. And so the kind of change that we need to see to avert climate change, which is catastrophic for communities all over the world, can’t really happen through the traditional channels of change like UN processes or national legislation. And so, in order to break the social license of the fossil fuel industry to pollute and destroy our climate, we really wanted to show that institutions all over the world no longer support this industry and don’t really want them to have the power they have over our systems.
PERIES: Right. Jenny, we have learned that the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund has been doing what you are calling for in this campaign for a long time now. Tell us more about their strategy.
MARIENAU: So they’ve divested from 114 different companies. They’re primarily coal mining companies, but also tar sands, cement, palm oil companies. And it seems to be both a financial decision but also a social decision. They’ve looked at what they’re investing in and have decided to pull their money out of industries that are destroying the planet.
PERIES: And how are they going about being effective in this area? When they’re divesting, how are they actually doing that?
MARIENAU: I believe they’re just working with their fund managers to pull their investments out of the companies that they’ve identified as companies that they no longer support. And it’s really providing leadership. It’s the largest fund that we’ve had divest–$850 billion. And it’s providing moral and financial leadership across the board.
PERIES: And in terms of just this strategy, now, people are also indicating that this is not enough and that this strategy is–partially can achieve what we need to achieve in terms of fossil fuel–reduction of fossil fuel usage, but it’s not enough. What are they referring to here?
MARIENAU: I agree that divestment is not enough. But it is one way that communities across the world can really find a handle for them to take action on the climate change issue. So I would agree that we need to see policy. We need to see UN negotiations that lead to strong and binding cuts in our fossil fuel use and commitments to lower CO2 levels.
But fossil fuel divestment is one step of that pathway. And we believe that it’s an important step to demonstrate that people don’t see sort of, like, individual choices or, like, style changes as the only way that we can impact climate change. There actually is an entire industry that’s fighting our ability to make change on the climate issue. And we want to call them out. The fossil fuel industry has spread misinformation about the climate issue. They fund our political systems in such a way that they’ve sort of stacked the deck against real political action on climate change. And the divestment campaign is there to sort of revoke that social license and to resist the system that they’ve built to work for them.
PERIES: And you have a two-day campaign that you’re planning right now, the 13th of 14th. But what are the next steps? Because obviously you have to sustain this, you have to grow it, you have to really make a difference, and you’re hoping to have some effect at the end of the year while the Paris talks are going on. But this also has to be an ongoing campaign.
MARIENAU: Absolutely. So you’re right that today is the global divestment day, where hundreds of actions are taking place all over the world on six different continents. There’s about 150 actions happening in the U.S. and Canada. And many of those actions are predicted actions, talking about what comes next. So college campuses, for example, at places like Harvard, Tulane, Colorado University, are really calling on their administrators to pick a side. They’re asking, which side are you on? Are you with the climate deniers and folks who feel committed to sort of the old way of fueling our economy? Or are you with the new idea for the future of supporting communities to develop their own energy resources, of supporting a future that isn’t bound to climate chaos?
And so I think that that’s a great example of the way that campaigners need to both put pressure on their targets, really push for a divestment commitment, and are building power, asking folks to join them.
So, next steps are people are continuing their local campaigns. There are hundreds of campaigns in the U.S., thousands across the world. And folks are asking their administrators, pension fund managers, cities and states and international governments to divest.
PERIES: And what about in particular innovative industries, for example, wind energy or solar energy or any of those large categories?
MARIENAU: Yeah, distributed renewable energy is a great solution to the climate crisis. Folks often say that we can’t remove ourselves from the fossil fuel economy because there aren’t solutions, but really all the solutions that we need to solve the climate crisis are already there, and we would love to see institutions that are divesting from the fossil fuel industry reinvesting in the future of energy.
PERIES: Jenny, I want to thank you so much for joining us. And all the best with your efforts during this campaign.
MARIENAU: Thank you. I appreciate it.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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