Campaign seeks to encourage fossil fuel divestment among RI municipalities and non-profitsClimate Action RI, an affiliate of 350.org, announced a new campaign to encourage institutional divestment from fossil fuels at Providence City Hall, stating that by banking and investing in fossil fuel funders, municipalities and organizations are undermining their own emissions reduction plans.
Published on March 22, 2023
By Steve Ahlquist
Climate Action RI, an affiliate of 350.org, announced a new campaign to encourage institutional divestment from fossil fuels at Providence City Hall Tuesday morning. Aimed at Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns and the 100 largest non-profit institutions in Rhode Island, the initiative is developing a report card on the extent of fossil fuel investment and banking among those entities. By banking and investing in fossil fuel funders, municipalities and organizations are undermining their own emissions reduction plans.
Climate Action RI’s divestment action seeks to enhance the goals set out in the Act on Climate – setting 2050 as the year by which the state will achieve net zero emissions – and legislation requiring the state to offset 100% of its electricity use with renewable energy by 2033.
The non-profit institutions were selected based on the size of their revenues and non-fixed assets. Access to public record requests have been sent to the municipalities and surveys to non-profits. A report card will be publicly released once the data is complete. Non-profits that are not in the top 100 are encouraged to submit any fossil fuel policies they have adopted.
“If we are to move to a fossil-free future and successfully curb global warming, we have to stop the funding from banks and investments that underwrite the fossil fuel industry,” said Justin Boyan, President of Climate Action RI. “Each of us needs to do our part.”
“According to the United Nations, we are fast running out of time,” said Gayle Gifford, one of the organizers of the divestment campaign. “It’s now or never to limit global warming. The best investments we can make in the future are to disinvest from fossil fuels and build climate resiliency. Our grandchildren will thank us.”
“Earlier this month the treasurer met with Climate Action RI to discuss how we can collaborate in spring the important message of the value of decarbonization,” said Mark Lebeau, press secretary to Rhode Island General Treasurer James Diossa. “We recognize that to combat the existential threat that climate change poses we need to collaborate with green leaders, otherwise Rhode Island’s future is in jeopardy.”
“There’s… a major risk to investors that use banks that are not integrating ESG principles, and those are Environmental, Social and Governance,” said Michelle Cortez Harkins from Harkins Wealth Management. “I strongly believe that not looking at those metrics when you’re looking at an investment opportunity is a breach of fiduciary duty.”
Questions from those in attendance are here.
March 21 is a National Day of Action with hundreds of events taking place across the United States and around New England, so the press conference was followed by a March to Stop Funding Fossil Fuels. Around thirty people carrying signs and chanting marched to the local offices of JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, three of the biggest funders of the fossil fuel industry.
At each bank people gave short speeches and cut up credit cards from banks identified as “climate criminals.”
- 00:00 Brian Wilder, organizer with Climate Action RI, outside Providence City Hall
- 00:38 Justin Boyan, President of Climate Action RI
- 05:41 Diane Hill, organizer with Climate Action RI
- 14:27 Jeanine, organizer with Climate Action RI
- 31:28 David Raphael LeClair
Climate change is already taking a toll on Rhode Island, said Climate Action RI in a press release, adding, “The state is warming faster than the rest of New England, with temperatures having risen nearly four degrees Fahrenheit since the beginning of the 21st century. Sea level has risen nine inches in Newport since 1930. Beaches are eroding, wild species are being list, and homes in coastal communities are under siege.”
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For background information on banking, investments and fossil fuels, see:
- Banking Climate Footprint of the top five fossil fuel funders
- The Carbon Bankroll: The Climate Impact and Untapped Power of Corporate Cash