Seattle Divest/Defund Disaster
Seattle Divest/Defund Disaster
Where we spend our money is important. An old adage says that every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world that we want. This is why former U.N Climate Chief Christiana Figueres wrote that, “the investments that we’re going to make globally over the next five, 10, maximum 15 years … will determine the quality of life of future generations.”
This is why we battle major Wall Street banks, philanthropic foundations, and city governments to get them to stop investing in climate-wrecking fossil fuels—and to instead invest in climate solutions.
Here’s how we do it:
Defund Disaster — Holding Wall Street Accountable
Banks play a central role in enabling the climate crisis. Major fossil fuel companies rely on large loans for construction — the Dakota Access pipeline, for example, was a $3.8 billion pipeline, $2.5 billion of which came from bank loans. Between 2013 and 2015, the world’s twenty-five largest banks provided $765 billion in funding to new fossil fuel infrastructure and exploration projects. Without these loans, it’s difficult for fossil fuel corporations to find the billions required to build new infrastructure projects.
In other words: if you stop the flow of dollars, you keep the oil in the ground.
Over the past two years, the climate movement has woken up to the significance of the role of the banks in the climate crisis. Prompted by passionate advocates, Seattle was the first city in the country to decide to break ties with a bank in part because it provided loans for the Dakota Access pipeline. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C,Philadelphia, Missoula, Davis, Santa Monica, and Providence all followed suit.
Following the DAPL-inspired bank campaigns, Mazaska Talks, an indigenous-led group, organized Divest the Globe, the single largest day of action targeting banks for their investments in fossil fuels, and a huge boycott of the banks funding new tar sands projects: as of late 2018, organizations representing over ten million supporters had committed to the boycott. We were proud to support Mazaska Talks in this work.
Over the past year, our attention turned to JPMorgan Chase, the largest funder of extreme fossil fuels on Wall Street. Along with partners such as Rainforest Action Network, Honor the Earth, Greenpeace USA and Sierra Club, we are running a campaign calling on JPMorgan Chase to cease financing all extreme fossil fuels. Here’s more about our Chase campaign.
Fossil Fuel Divestment
The fossil fuel divestment movement is the largest divestment movement in history. Since 2011, almost $5.4 trillion worth of investment capital has committed to some form of fossil fuel divestment. Prominent institutions that have committed to divest their investment portfolios include Stanford University, the World Council of Churches, and the nation of Ireland.
Here in Seattle, we ran two major fossil fuel divestment campaigns: one to get the world’s largest foundation, the Gates Foundation, to commit to divestment, and another to get the City of Seattle to commit to fossil fuel divestment. While neither of these campaigns had an unalloyed win, both met with some successes. The Gates Foundation massively reduced its fossil fuel investments, and the Seattle Mayor and City Council came out in strong support of divestment. Despite this, the pension fund board, SCERS, remains intransigent.