Rockefeller heirs announce divestment as leaders meet on climate change


By Heather Mendiola

Just 24 hours after an estimated 600,000 people took to the streets in New York City, London, Melbourne, Paris and Rio de Janeiro to demand an action on climate change, their demands were answered.

On Monday, September 22, heirs to the Rockefeller fortune announced they were joining the divestment movement that started only a few years ago on college campuses.

John D. Rockefeller built his fortune on oil, and now his family is turning away from oil.

The Rockefeller Brother Fund, a philanthropic organization, is divesting $860 million from fossil fuels and investing it in renewable energies.

The fund is taking a two-step approach to divestment.

The fund’s goal is immediately to limit its investments to coal and tar sands by pledging to reduce these investments to less than 1 percent of its total portfolio by the end of 2014.

The fund will then analyze its remaining investments’ exposures to fossil fuels and will divest those funds as quickly as possible.

This announcement was made two years after the fund committed to investing 10 percent of its endowment in clean energy and businesses with strategies for advancing energy efficiency.

This announcement was timed to fall between the People’s Climate March and the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked leaders to bring bold statements to this climate summit, outlining their plans of action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and strengthen their countries’ climate resilience.

The U.N. Climate Summit 2014 website states, “Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow. But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies.”

One of the major accomplishments of the U.N. Climate Summit was the New York Declaration on Forests.

The declaration is a plan to halve deforestation by 2020 and end it by 2030, as well as to restore hundreds of millions of hectares of forest land.

The U.N. reports that this was “the first time in history that a critical mass of developed and developing country world leaders partnered around such a goal.”

Companies, indigenous peoples organizations and non-governmental organizations also supported this declaration.

The U.N. Climate Summit also created the Green Climate Fund, which will support projects, programs and policies geared toward reducing the effects of climate change on developing countries.

French President Francois Hollande was the first to announce his country’s participation, stating that France will give $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel followed France’s example. South Korea pledged $100 million, and Mexico, Norway, Denmark, Indonesia and Luxembourg also made pledges.

Talk of a Green Climate Fund began five years ago with the idea that developed countries create global warming and it is therefore those countries’ responsibilities to reduce global warming.

World leaders are also set to meet in Paris to sign a global agreement on climate action next year.

While these initiatives look good on paper and may make consumers happy for a moment, none are binding contracts.

Those hoping for a meaningful legal agreement will have to wait until world leaders meet in Paris in 2015 to sign a global agreement for action on climate change.



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