Fossil fuels. They power our industries, they power transportation and they even power our homes – heating our water and our rooms. The use of fossil fuels has a rich history; from the early days of the Industrial Revolution that spiked mining and consumption of coal and oil, to the oil rush in the 1800’s that began in Pennsylvania in the United States. Fossil fuels and their consumption have become intrinsically linked with the way in which our modern society functions.
Fossil fuels are those fuel sources created millions of years ago through anaerobic decay of dead organisms, Intense pressure and continued compaction have created reservoirs of oil, coal and natural gas in the 30% of the Earth that is covered by land. But there are several issues surrounding fossil fuels; non-renewable nature of fossil fuel creation, environmental concerns linked to consumption and also how much longer the global fossil fuel supplies will last.
Divestment is, fundamentally, the opposite of investment; stock and cash flows for example. Fossil Fuel divestment is not a new concept. For years, the UNFCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and UN have warned that continued trends of increasing fossil fuel mining and consumption has, is and will continue to create severe environmental concerns and impacts now and in the future.
Just last April, a UN report led by Lord Stern – of the acclaimed 2007 Stern Review – identified that, of all known global fossil fuel reservoirs, two-thirds must be kept in the ground if the world’s governments were to continue on track to meet the now omnipresent climate change ‘dangerous threshold’ of 2ºc of global warming. The campaign for fossil fuel divestment – oft noted as one of the fastest-growing campaigns of all time – Go Fossil Free is leading the fight for global divestment in non-renewables.
But what are the alternatives to fossil fuels? Renewable sources – renewable in the way that they can be replenished through natural means; supply outstrips demand. Renewable energy includes; tidal, geothermal, wave, wind, solar and even rain. Like fossil fuels, renewables are no new breakthrough, but they do hold the key to continued economic and infrastructural growth around the world over the coming centuries as non-renewable energy sources will become increasingly more expensive to mine, refine and process.
There is significant interest in switching to renewables within the global community, from Denmark boasting being 40% powered by renewable energy last year to Apple developing their new Apple Campus 2 to be completely self-reliant on company-generated renewable energy sources – see their video on Environmental impact here. Universities in Western Europe and the US have also been particularly vocal towards making the move to renewables and soon. In October 2014, Glasgow University became the first university in the world to become totally ‘fossil-fuel free’ – all university stocks in non-renewables as well as any existing partnerships with the oil and gas industry have been revoked or allowed to run to the end of their contracts and will not be renewed.
Other such organisations that renewables and fossil fuels have been a subject for the public sphere are the efforts of the leading campaigner, Greenpeace. Late last year, Greenpeace issued a very well managed and marketed campaign about the partnership of Lego with the oil and petrochemical conglomerate, Shell. Set to the music of The Lego Movie’s flagship ‘Everything Is Awesome’ song, the short film based around an Arctic built from LEGO being polluted by future oil spills if the oil companies were granted permits to drill in the Arctic.
Fossil fuel divestment will become a leading topic of debate and discourse in the coming weeks, months and years and rightly so. The Go Fossil Free has already made significant headway and supporters are lining up behind its cause with surprising rapidity; from the Rockefeller Foundation (whose founder, John D. Rockefeller’s fortune was created in the US oil boom) has divested all $60m (£37m) of The Rockefeller Brothers Foundation stock previously invested in non-renewables and the oil and gas industries. The Guardian quotes that the ‘Fossil Free lists 837 institutions and individuals as having committed to divesting so far, and says the rate of those signing up has doubled since the start of 2014.’
How many more universities will join Glasgow in 2015?
How many more people and organisations will join the Go Fossil Free campaign and divest stock and cash in non-renewables?
To find out which parties support renewable energy and to what level, please read the following:
To start your own Go Fossil Free campaign in your community, visit GoFossilFree.