Largest charitable foundation in world target of growing call for divestment
by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams
Despite the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s position that global warming poses an immediate and serious threat, the charity holds at least $1.4 billion of investments in the fossil fuel companies driving the climate crisis, sparking accusations of hypocrisy from green campaigners.
The holdings were revealed Thursday by Guardian reporters Damian Carrington and Karl Mathiesen, who analyzed the organization’s most recent tax filings in 2013.
The largest charitable foundation in the world, the organization says its investments are controlled by a separate entity, the Asset Trust. However, climate campaigners do not buy this abdication of responsibility, and the organization has, in the past, caved to public pressure to divest from companies that violate human rights, including Israeli prison contractor G4S.
The Guardian launched a campaign on Monday calling on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the Wellcome Trust, to “remove their investments from the top 200 fossil fuel companies and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within five years.”
The effort has already been backed by 95,000 people, the outlet reports.
The campaign is part of a global push for fossil fuel divestment, as a strategy to deligitimize and de-fund the industries driving global warming. In response to such efforts, over 200 institutions have already committed to divest, from colleges and universities to the World Council of Churches and the British Medical Association. Ongoing campaigns are picking up momentum across world, with universities from South Africa to New Zealand to the Netherlands key battlegrounds.
“Divestment is about aligning our investments with our values and challenging the political power of an industry that is threatening indigenous peoples, polluting our politics and driving us toward climate catastrophe,” Adam Zuckerman, environmental and human rights campaigner for Amazon Watch, told Common Dreams.
This movement is accompanied by a growing call for reinvestment in the people most impacted by climate change.
“Divested capital should go to frontline communities who are building the next economy,”declared Our Power, a campaign that unites Indigenous peoples, people of color, and working-class white communities collaborating through the Climate Justice Alliance. “When combined with power building, moving the money becomes a tool to truly remake economy, not just create alternatives that sit at the fringes of the extractive economy.”
The call for divestment is growing increasingly mainstream, with the United Nations lending its backing to the cause.
Meanwhile, the scientific community continues to sound the alarm.
A study published earlier this year in the journal Nature in January found that, in order to stave off climate disaster, the majority of fossil fuel deposits on the planet—including 92 percent of U.S. coal, all Arctic oil and gas, and a majority of Canadian tar sands—must stay “in the ground.”