2016 has been the best year yet (for fossil fuel divestment)

Thursday 22-12-2016 - 11:50

$5.2 trillion has now been extracted from fossil fuels (doubling last year's total) - and Trinity College Dublin has now joined the movement. 

Trinity College Dublin divest-invest

This month, Divest-Invest revealed that a whopping $5.2 trillion in assets – double last year’s figure - has been moved out of fossil fuel companies since US campus campaigning began 4 years ago.

British universities led the world this year in campus action for divestment from oil, coal and gas; People & Planet recently reported that 43 UK institutions have now committed to divest from extractor fossil fuel companies.

On the very same day as Divest-Invest’s $5.2 trillion-announcement, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) joined the global movement, the first college in Ireland to do so, publicly committing to fully divest their holdings.

Aine O’Garman from Fossil Free TCD spoke on the panel - along with actor Mark Ruffalo and UK financier Helena Morrissey - at Divest-Invest’s press conference in London.

It was a powerful speech:

“I am 23. In 1992, the year before I was born, 12-year-old Severn Suzuki spoke to the UN about her fears for our planet and those who live on it. She said of young people: 'No one can do this better than those with everything at stake.' That’s why I’m here today.

Because still, 24 years later, I am a young person with everything at stake. I am here today because with thousands of other young people across the world; I have been compelled to dedicate my time and energy to addressing that which my parents’ generation neglected. But I am also here today because, unlike world leaders in 1992, my university has not only listened to our plea for a just, liveable future - but has acted upon it.  

Last March, I was in a meeting room with students from Fossil Free TCD, hoping that a couple of the Trinity College board members might turn up to listen to us. In the forefront of our minds was the lengths most student campaigns have had to go to, to get their universities to even acknowledge them. Sit-ins, die-ins, wrapping London in red ribbons. So when that room in March filled up with the most powerful people in the university, who wanted to engage with us, we felt that we were witnessing the start of a tipping point in the divestment movement.  

It took less than one year for us students working with the administration to come to a full divestment commitment. Just like Trinity and one quarter of UK universities, institutions across the world are no longer seeing students asking for divestment as a threat, but for what this really is. A reasonable, moral and financially sound request, to stop financing climate change, to catalyse a fundamental reform so we can move forward into the future with dignity.

Remember when you were our age. Could you have imagined listening in 2016, to a young person still pleading for action to protect our planet?  I should never have needed to have been part of the divestment movement. But my generation have been forced to stand up and carry the torch that was dropped by previous generations. We have been on this planet for such a short time, yet we know how urgent this is. We started this movement. It is giving us hope.

Our experience working with the administration in Trinity shows that the establishment is starting to listen. Students and universities, look at us and act together. Twenty-four years later, it is still true that 'No-one can do this better than those with everything at stake.' We can all do this together. We have to. We all have everything at stake.”

We've compiled a lot of resources to help you get your institution to divest.

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