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Fossil fuel divestment economics in line with morality

  • 01 June 2015

The Norwegian Parliament has just ordered its $A1.15 trillion Sovereign Wealth Fund to divest from coal. This represents the largest single divestment from fossil fuels in human history, and our biggest sign yet that the age of coal is over and the financial case for investing in fossil fuels is likely to disintegrate.

'Investing in coal companies poses both a climate-related and economic risk,' said Svein Flaatten, a Conservative member of the parliamentary finance committee.

350.org Australia believes Norway’s decision sets a groundbreaking precedent that is likely to drive a major new wave of fossil fuel divestment. 'With coal prices at an all time low and renewables increasingly bullish, it’s no surprise that major investors like Norway are getting their money out of this damaging sector.'

Over 220 institutions, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Stanford University and French Insurance megalith Axa, who’ve committed to divest from fossil fuels in the past 12 months.

In the past week, 350.org and the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARCC) have both questioned why Australia is apparently blind to the rejection of coal elsewhere. They say that it makes no sense for Australia to double down on it and open up massive new coal mines, like those in the Galilee Basin.

The ARCC adds moral argument to the economics that triggered Norway’s decision. 'It is shameful for a relatively wealthy country to be putting forward targets below the offerings of other nations with comparable economies.'

The moral cost of inaction is clear from numerous studies such as the Australian Government Department of the Environment's Climate Variability, Extremes and Change in the Western Tropical Pacific 2014 report, which details why the small island developing nations in our vicinity are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

The ARCC points out that coal and natural gas make up an unacceptably large proportion of our exports and that 95% of our energy consumption comes from fossil fuel sources when the OECD average is 81%. This, it says, should spur us on to more rapidly decarbonise our economy.

In a letter to the PM and the leader of the Opposition signed by religious leaders including the Anglican Primate and Uniting Church National Assembly President, ARCC described setting a reduction target comparable with that of other wealthy developed nations as a ‘moral imperative’. It specified that this should be 30% below 2000 levels by 2025, in line with the draft report issued by the Australian Government