While President Obama’s EPA is planning new regulations to cap carbon emissions from power plants, a sprawling grassroots “divestment” movement is pressuring fossil fuel companies from the bottom-up — calling on individuals and institutions to dump their stocks in companies, in the words of divestment leaders Wealth for Common Good, “whose business model is recklessly destroying the planet.”
Wealth for Common Good is currently collecting pledges from people who commit to divesting from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. And 350.org’s Go Fossil Free site is a clearinghouse of local campaigns pressuring government, educational and religious institutions to do the same.
The Responding the Climate Change news site sees 2013 as “the year the divestment campaign took flight” with 400 college-based campaigns launched. The article notes, that campaign leaders see fossil fuel divestment has having a similar impact as the 1980s South African divestment campaign had on the end of apartheid.
As Eric Hendey of the Harvard Political Review notes, that impact may not be in terms of direct financial pressure — it would take a lot of divestment to truly damage ExxonMobil’s bottom line. But the heightened visibility that comes with a nationwide network of divestment campaigns brought additional pressure on the South African government to reverse course. Once fossil fuel companies begin to feel the pressure from all sides — government regulations, loss of investors, damaged brands and depressed employee morale — a new willingness to compromise may materialize.