No time to waste

December 01,2016

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Responsible Americans can’t give up on shrinking the nation’s carbon footprint while a climate denialist and his fellow travelers have their way with the federal government. And while it’s true that market forces will probably help continue to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, there’s still a lot of work to be done if Trump makes good on his plans to abandon our climate commitments. With Greenland’s ice sheet thawing out, hottest-year-on-record temperatures set on an annual basis and increasingly dangerous and frequent bouts of extreme weather, the world needs to stay focused on fighting climate change in the next four years. As The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said, ‘there is no time to waste’ here in the real world.

Most fossil-fuel financing comes from the private sector, including stocks and bonds belonging to individuals and big institutions such as universities, hospitals and foundations. Ethical investors have long shunned tobacco, weapons and porn. If you don’t want to profit off the warming of the planet, isn’t it time to rid your own investment holdings in oil, gas and coal?

Taking this step is strategic as well as altruistic: In the long run, it will protect any financial portfolio. The value of oil, gas and coal financial assets will eventually shrivel, either from a loss in demand as renewable energy outcompetes dirtier options or because of policy efforts taken by every world leader.

Only half of Americans own shares in any companies or funds, either directly or through retirement funds like 401(k)s and IRAs. But even if you have no shares to divest, there are other ways to join the fossil-free investment movement: Advocate that the pension funds of your alma mater or local government go carbon neutral.

It has never been easier. The number of low-fee exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, without oil, gas or coal exposure is growing, with choices offered by State Street Global Advisors, BlackRock and other big-league investment houses. You can even invest in a low-carbon version of the S&P index if you prefer.

Don’t assume mutual funds meet this standard just because they’re designated as ‘socially responsible.’ Instead, run the funds through anonline tool created by As You Sow, a group that presses for corporate responsibility. The tool makes it easy to spot fossil-fuel exposure and identify greener options.

Fossil Free, a project, estimates that $3.4 trillion is held by institutions that have pledged to divest altogether or at least in part (such as eschewing coal or tar sands oil or both). Individuals with another $5.2 billion in their personal portfolios have made the same commitments. If you’re ready to add to that bundle and move some of your money into in climate solutions, consider taking the Divest-Invest pledge to make your choice known.

Businesses large and small are increasingly doing their part, and not necessarily because of climate fears. On average, commercial property owners are seeing their monthly electricity bills drop by 75 percent when they go solar, according to data from the EnergySage online solar marketplace. Wherever you live, encourage local employers and utilities to swap out power from fossil fuels for juice from the sun or the wind.

Going solar is only one example of how you can ‘starve the fossil fuel beast,’ says Garvin Jabusch, chief investment officer and co-founder of the fossil-free Green Alpha Advisors investment firm. ‘Do what you can: Get an EV (electric vehicle), get solar panels, use more public transport and ride your bike, and insulate more.’

This article has been excerpted from: ‘Climate Action Is Up To the Rest of Us Now’.



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