• Climate risks spur 50-fold increase in pledges to divest
  • Large pension funds, insurers account for 95% of pledges

Portfolio managers have pledged to steer $2.6 trillion in investments away from fossil fuels in an effort to prevent catastrophic climate change.

That’s a 50-fold increase from the cumulative total a year ago, $50 billion, as environmental groups increased pressure on universities, insurance companies and individual investors to abandon stocks tied to coal, oil and natural gas, according to a report released Tuesday by Arabella Advisors.

The surge in support for the divestment movement shows growing awareness of the role fossil fuels play in climate change, and growing concern among the general public. The report is being issued as world leaders and industry executives begin to gather in New York for Climate Week NYC and the United Nations general assembly. The results may spur commitments to reduce greenhouse gas production ahead of a December summit in Paris when more than 190 nations are expected to agree on a binding global carbon emissions pact.

“You don’t go from $50 billion to $2.6 trillion in commitments without attracting a little attention,” Tom Van Dyck, managing director for socially responsible investment at Royal Bank of Canada, said by phone. “More and more investors are looking at the risks of not getting getting away from fossil fuels.”

Unused Assets

To prevent warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), researchers have concluded that more than $100 trillion in oil, gas and coal reserves should remain underground, unused. Some investors are seeing that as a threat of fossil-fuel companies, and are opting to dump their shares. To date, 430 institutions and 2,040 individuals have joined the effort.

The divestment movement is not just about preventing the use of fossil fuels. It’s also about limiting the political clout of the industry. The groups pushing for divestment are looking for a way to limit Big Oil’s influence on politicians and regulators.

Of the groups that agreed to divest from oil and coal companies, investors with $785 billion in assets have also agreed to shift money into climate solutions like solar and wind energy.

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