WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- A new coalition of more than a dozen U.S. and international foundations with an asset base of nearly $2 billion announced today it will divest from fossil-fuel companies and invest in the clean energy economy. It called on other foundations to join the initiative.
"Climate change affects the mission of all foundations—whether focused on environment or not," said Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director of the Wallace Global Fund and the originator of the Divest-Invest initiative. "Starting today, we pledge to use all our assets—not just the usual five percent yearly payment of grants—to advance our goals, values and beliefs."
"While markets have yet to internalize climate risks, members of Divest-Invest Philanthropy are guided by science in taking this step," said Ruth Hennig, Executive Director of The John Merck Fund. "And we are relying on a growing list of financial analyses that refute the conventional wisdom that divesting from fossil fuel stocks leads to greater risk or lower returns."
The coalition emphasized the financial and ethical risks of remaining invested in fossil fuels when the climate science is clear that the window to preserve a livable climate is closing fast.
"The financial risks of staying invested in fossil fuels are high because two-thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves simply cannot be burned, yet the markets treat this basic physics like it is science fiction," said Tom Van Dyck, Financial Advisor at RBC Wealth Management. "Either coal, oil and gas deposits become stranded assets, or we do."
At a January 15 conference of investors with more than $20 trillion in combined assets, United Nations Climate Chief Christiana Figueres amplified the point: "Investment decisions need to reflect the clear scientific evidence, and fiduciary responsibility needs to grasp the intergenerational reality; namely that unchecked climate change has the potential to impact and eventually devastate the lives, livelihoods and savings of many, now and well into the future."
World Bank President Jim Kim stated at the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos that "long-term investors must recognize their fiduciary responsibility to future pension holders who will be affected by decisions made today. Corporate leaders should not wait to act until market signals are right and national investment policies are in place."
"We are divesting and reinvesting to align our portfolio with our values, accelerate the growth in renewable energy, and protect the long term value of our investments," said Richard Woo, Chief Executive Officer of The Russell Family Foundation. "Given the urgency, we call on all philanthropy to do the same."
Divest-Invest Philanthropy is adding its heft to the exploding fossil-fuel free movement in the United States and abroad. From its start on college campuses two years ago, the movement has spread to cities, states, pension funds and religious institutions. Over 50 institutions in the United States alone, including nearly two dozen cities, have committed to divest.
"Given the ongoing failure of governments and business to lead in the epic fight against climate change, we need our most prominent institutions to take a powerful, moral and practical lead. Here's a great example of just that kind of leadership!" said Bill McKibben, writer and co-founder of the advocacy group 350.org. "Just as the South African divestment movement helped speed the fall of apartheid, the fossil-free movement is accelerating our independence from fossil fuels."
The Divest-Invest Philanthropy coalition includes foundations such as The John Merck Fund, Park Foundation and the Russell Family Foundation in the United States; and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust abroad.
To see the full list of foundations and to learn more about Divest-Invest Philanthropy, please visit www.divestinvest.org/philanthropy.
RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC
SOURCE Divest-Invest Philanthropy