Greta Thunberg calls for divestment and the end of fossil fuel subsidies


The 17 year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has called on world leaders to end the ‘madness’ of fossil fuel investments and subsidies. The article, published by the Guardian, was written with other youth climate activists from around the world. It urges leaders meeting in Davos for the 50th anniversary conference of the World Economic Forum later this month to end global investment in fossil fuels.

The young climate strikers demand that ‘at this year’s forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels.’ They emphasise the urgency of action needed, adding that ‘we don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021’, but are calling for divestment ‘now – as in right now.’

Greta Thunberg, striking for the climate outside the Swedish parliament
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A few days after the young activists demanded an end to investment in fossil fuels, the divestment movement in the UK celebrated the milestone of half of UK universities committing to divest and going fossil free. This is a result of several years of protests, campaigns and lobbying from the student environmental movement People and Planet, working in conjunction with the National Union of Students.

In addition to the success of university divestment campaigns, there is growing pressure on banks to stop their lending to fossil fuel companies. Last week, eleven institutional investors and shareholders filed a resolution urging Barclays to cut its support of oil and gas corporations. The resolution will be brought for discussion at the bank’s AGM in May. Two of the eleven shareholders pushing Barclays to reconsider its financing of fossil fuels are the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church and the Jesuits in Britain, and the Church Commissioners have also expressed their support of the resolution

The increasing focus on calling out the banks supporting and financing fossil fuel extraction is simultaneously taking place in the US. Stop the Money Pipeline is a new campaign, supported by the founder of the divestment movement and 350.org, Bill McKibben, demanding an end to the connections between Wall Street and Big Oil. McKibben and a group of campaigners were recently arrested while occupying a branch of Chase Bank in Washington DC as part of a sit-in protest against the bank’s financing of fossil fuels with $196bn since 2016.

What are these recent stories and the increasingly high-profile media coverage of fossil fuel divestment showing us? The ‘social licence’ of financing and profiting from fossil fuel extraction is clearly on the decline. Along with other organisations across the divestment movement, we hope that the momentum created by divestment campaigns will continue to shift investment out of fossil fuels and into renewables and the clean technologies of the future. 

In the powerful words of Greta and her fellow young activists: ‘Anything less than immediately ceasing these investments in the fossil fuel industry would be a betrayal of life itself. Today’s business as usual is turning into a crime against humanity. We demand that leaders play their part in putting an end to this madness. Our future is at stake, let that be their investment.’

Could you raise divestment in your church and ask them to be part of the growing movement to shift investments out of fossil fuels? Operation Noah – together with partners from around the world – is inviting Churches and other faith institutions to join a global divestment announcement in late March 2020. 

The global divestment announcement is being organised in collaboration with the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Green Anglicans, and GreenFaith. If you’d like to learn more please get in touch with Helena Ritter at helena.ritter@operationnoah.org. We’d be delighted to hear from you!

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