In a momentous and hugely symbolic move, the heirs of John D Rockefeller’s oil fortune, built form Standard Oil, have announced that they are divesting their funds from fossil fuel interests.
The family will add the weight of its $860 million philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, to the growing fossil fuel divestment movement that began a couple of years ago, the New York Times has reported. The announcement came just ahead of this week’s United Nations climate change summit in New York.
So far, more than 800 global investors, including wealthy individuals, religious organisations, healthcare organizations, cities, university endowment funds, pension funds, and other philanthropic foundations have joined the divestment movement. Including the Rockefeller investments, it amounts to around $50 billion over the next 5 years.
Even though the divestment movement is unlikely to impact big fossil fuel company values just yet, the growing movement has been likened to the anti-apartheid divestment phenomenon in the 1980s. The divestment movement has the potential to snowball and end up moving a significant amount of funding away from fossil fuel companies, and could lead to a much greater percentage of investment flowing into clean energy development and other clean technologies. The ultimate aim is to help provide a practical, financial solution to climate change, by accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels.
One of the fund’s trustees, Steven Rockefeller, said “We see this as having a moral and economic dimension.” He mentioned the vast quantity of known fossil fuel reserves these companies are planning to extract and burn. Scientists have pointed out that most of these known reserves, let alone more under exploration, will have to stay in the ground if the world is to avoid disastrous climate change. Over the past couple of years, this unsustainable fossil fuel market situation has come to be known as the great carbon bubble.