Divest from Fossil Fuels - A Four Step Guide

Saturday, January 18, 2020 (Listed under Environment)

I work as a climate & environmental consultant.

The science news that I consume each day is, in itself, practically a full-time job! By the time I've cataloged the reports, quotes, science and regularly (and alarmingly) surpassed climate targets, I'm on my third cup of coffee. It gives me renewed appreciation for the tireless work of journalists, scientists and activists around the world who continually — and compellingly — connect the climate dots so that we can fully absorb the impacts of a planet in peril (to follow these experts, their twitter handle links are provided at the end of this post).

From species extinction, heat & drought-fueled wildfires, Florida's now daily high-tide flooding, ocean warming, coral bleaching, arctic & glacial melting, crop failure and fresh water scarcity—not to mention the continued denial of fossil fuel companies to account for their half-century-long climate disruption—there's a lot to digest and understand in a 24-hour news cycle.

There's also the encouraging news that foundations, asset managers and pension funds are beginning to divest from the underwhelming returns of a fossil fuel industry that continues—largely unabated—to exploit the planet, its resources and its people, costing countries billions of dollars each year.

What I realize is that the challenge to rein-in the coal, oil and gas industry is getting a bit easier as public pressure mounts. More people are now examining their lives to assess how they can become less dependent on fossil fuels, so as to reduce the demand for the products that threaten life on earth.

Here are four moves to decarbonize our lives:

1) Switch to an electricity provider that generates electricity from wind and solar power 

In states like Texas, this is easy and, as it turns out, it's a cost-savings too. Wind and solar power—home-grown in the Texas Panhandle—have been so successful that it's now cheaper to buy renewably-powered electricity than to purchase coal and natural gas-powered electricity. Other states where wind-powered electricity is available include Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, California, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota.

States with the highest supply of solar-powered electricity generation include California, North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

If you can't easily switch to renewably-powered electricity in your state or community, consider creating a community team to explore how to build a distributed solar array that can supply carbon-free electricity to homes and business in your neighborhood. Read how Lexington, MA saved $19 million dollars by harvesting solar power.

2) Divest your portfolio and/or retirement account

Review the stocks and mutual funds that you're invested in and, if they contain fossil fuel companies (which most do), choose new investments that reflect more accurately the new energy economy that we've entered. Sometimes it takes a few phone calls and the assistance of a financial advisor to make the change, but its worth it. Look for stocks and funds featuring new technologies that supply the components necessary to the wind and solar industries. If I can be one of the 58,000+ people to do this, you can do it too! 

3) Call on your alma mater to request that they divest their endowment from coal, tar sands, oil and gas

To review the schools that have divested or partially divested to date, check out GoFossilFree.org or click here to land on their “Commitments” page. The University of California, Middlebury College, Syracuse University and Concordia College are among the many schools that have committed to full divestment. Half of the universities in the U.K. have already divested.

4) Call on your employer to purchase renewably powered electricity

In addition to asking your employer to buy renewably-generated electricity, ask them to consider installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations closest to building entrances and provide priority parking for EV drivers. Even better, encourage them to build solar-covered parking carports with charging stations, such as the one at PartnersHealth in Spaulding, MA. Note that this project is financed by GE and Blackrock.

As you may have read this week, Blackrock stunned the financial world when its CEO, Larry Fink, announced that the world's largest asset management company would be looking at divesting from fossil fuels as a way to protect its investors' portfolios. Blackrock is now part of the more than 1,100+ institutions that have divested over $12 trillion in fossil fuels. Blackrock's announcement includes a first step—a half-billion-dollar divestment in thermal coal

The tide is shifting. Guarding against the worst consequences of climate change is within our reach, but only if we're all in. It's not unlike voting: we get the government—and the future—that we deserve.

I encourage you to get to know the journalists, scientists, economists, professors and change-makers who I follow for the latest insights on fossil fuel impacts, climate science; renewable energy; divestment momentum and the unfolding economic energy transition that is underway: Bill McKibben, Michael E. Mann, Mark Z. Jacobson, Clara Vondrich, Carl Safina, Katherine Hayhoe, Mark C. Lewis, Sharon Wilson, Leah StokesEmily Atkin, Jamie HennJeff Goodell, David Roberts, Peter Strachan, Mike Hudema, Al GoreThe Guardian and CarbonTracker.

If you have questions about switching electricity providers, what I've experienced as a result of divesting financially from fossil fuels or how to best communicate your climate commitments to employers, financial advisors and even neighbors, message me on Twitter or LinkedIn. If I can't answer your question, I can aim you in the right direction!

And if you're looking for a sit-down conversation to discuss your business or enterprise moving into the renewable energy future, check me out at StacyClarkClimate. I would love to hear from you!


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