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Divestment is a pretty big word. But don’t worry, we’re going to explain all you need to know here, so you can get to grips with how YOU can get behind your very own local divestment campaign!
What is it?
Divestment is socially motivated action. That is, it’s the selling or reduction of some kind of asset for financial, ethical or political objectives. It is the opposite of investment in a particular company or organisation.
What does it do?
In recent times the term has become associated with fossil fuel divestment. Groups of people are coming together to encourage large institutions, such as universities, churches, charities and pension funds, to sell their shares in coal, oil and gas companies for moral, ethical and financial reasons. Previous divestment campaigns of a similar nature targeted gambling and tobacco companies, but this new campaign is one of the fastest growing in history and has potential to seriously damage the fossil fuel industry.
Why is Divestment important?
Here at Ben & Jerry’s HQ we’re all about taking steps to make the world a more sustainable place! With sustainability and the health of our planet in mind, the case for fossil fuel divestment is really simple. Studies have shown that in order to limit global warming and prevent catastrophic climate change, the majority of the world’s remaining fossil fuels need to stay IN the ground. The problem is that this does not serve the interest of big fossil fuel companies who continue to take the reserves out of the ground...
There are also some important financial reasons for supporting divestment. International agreements on climate change already exist and are being implemented in countries around the world. If these agreements are met, the investments made in fossil fuel companies become worthless as their reserves could not be burned. This theory suggests there is a ‘Carbon Bubble’ that could lead to another global economic crisis.
Student activism is playing an important role in fossil fuel divestment. Groups of students around the world are staging protests against their universities, demanding they divest their interests in fossil fuel companies - because there is no plan-et B!
Students at the University of Massachusetts were arrested in April for demanding that the institution divest. Their campaign was validated in May, after it was announced that the university would become the first major public university to pull its direct holdings from fossil fuel companies - investments valued at 700 million dollars!
Closer to home here in Dublin, students at Trinity College Dublin have been campaigning for their university to divest its €6.1 million stake in fossil fuel companies. Students, staff, alumni and notable figures have signed a petition and open letter which has been presented to the board to implore them to take seriously the promises made in the Provost’s Strategic Plan: “Trinity has a responsibility to conduct its activities in a manner that protects and enhances the environment, conserves natural resources, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and supports society as a whole.” In contrast to other university campaigns, the TCD powers have, so far, been very willing to listen and engage with the campaigners. It's a positive message for the other campaigns springing up across Ireland.
How can you help?
There’s always more we can do. Get involved in your local divestment campaign - or start one yourself! Read more about Divestment with Trocaire here.
For more information on the Fossil Free TCD campaign visit their Facebook page here.
You can read more about Ben & Jerry’s and climate justice here.
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