By Santiago Lorenzo, Head- Green Climate Finance, WWF-International.
In the past year alone, the top 200 oil, gas and coal mining companies have set aside a staggering US$674 billion to seek out new fossil fuel reserves and develop new ways of extracting them. This massive capital injection is delaying the transition towards a clean energy future.
The finance industry has a vital role to play in the shift towards low carbon economies. More than three quarters of existing fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned if we are to have a decent chance of staying within the internationally agreed 2 degrees warming threshold. This means leaving alone the coal, oil and gas that’s already on the books. It is surely a form of madness to spend money trying to find new reserves in ever more extreme or precious environments – such as the Arctic, Africa’s Virunga National Park, or New Zealand’s deep water basins.
WWF-New Zealand has investigated the fossil fuel investments of the country’s two largest State-owned financial institutions and found that more than $1 billion of taxpayers’ money is invested in the coal, oil and gas sectors. The irony is that this pension and accident insurance money is supposed to be working for our future, not threatening it further.
These investments are not only ethically questionable; they are increasingly being recognised as a financial risk as governments around the world start taking concerted action on climate change.
Globally, WWF’s Seize Your Power campaign is working to ramp up investment in renewable energy and decrease investment in coal, oil and gas. Right now, we and other organizations are asking the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to stop financing coal plants and set realistic and measurable policies that facilitate a transition away from fossil fuels.
WWF is supporting the call for divestment from fossil fuels because we feel that well beyond an ethical argument, there is a business case to change the way the world produces and consumes energy. And this change should happen in our time!