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12 major cities pledge to divest from fossil fuel

The mayors of 12 cities have pledged to divest from fossil fuel companies and advocate for greater sustainable investment, as part of their commitment to accelerating a green and just recovery from COVID-19. The cities represent over 36 million city residents.

Fossil fuel pollution
Fossil fuel pollution from a coal power station

The C40 Cities-backed declaration, unveiled at a virtual Climate Week NYC event on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, calls on signatories to commit to divesting all city assets and pension funds from fossil fuel companies; increasing financial investments in climate solutions; and advocating for fossil-free finance from other investors.

The signatories include the mayors of Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York and Pittsburgh, along with the leaders of eight international cities including London, Berlin, Bristol, Cape Town, Durban, Vancouver, Milan and Oslo.

Details of individual divestment amounts, and timelines are sketchy. However, following this commitment, cities must navigate their specific divestment processes and structures in proposing next steps to pension boards.

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In a reaction, May Boeve Executive Director of 350.org, said: “The declaration sends a loud clear message to the fossil fuel industry. As we watch wildfires burn in the US and devastating floods in parts of Africa,  we know that Fossil fuels are not a safe investment: the sector is too volatile to be deeply vulnerable, it is time to divest from fossil fuels and invest in the green and just recovery of the future.“

“Now is the time to divest from fossil fuel companies and undertake investment and policy change that prioritises public and planetary health, building back a more equal society and addressing this climate emergency,” said Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio.

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The cities signing on to the new declaration commit to build momentum for fossil-free and sustainable investment by:

  • Taking all possible steps to divest city assets from fossil fuel companies and increasing financial investments in climate solutions to help promote decent jobs and a just and green economy.
  • Calling on pension funds to divest from fossil fuel companies and increasing financial investments in climate solutions to help promote decent jobs and a just and green economy.
  • Advocating for fossil-free and sustainable finance by other investors and all levels of government, including by promoting the importance of strong, long-term climate policies and demanding greater transparency.

According to Energy Policy Tracker, more than $200 billion in COVID-19 recovery funds are being pledged to fossil fuels, though investments in coal, oil, and gas are key drivers of the climate emergency.

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Continued investment in fossil fuels drives emissions that endanger the Paris Agreement goals, jeopardise efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, and threaten to lock carbon emissions into economies, especially as governments determine preferred pathways to a COVID-19 recovery, the Energy Policy Tracker added.

“It is essential to ensure that today’s investments do not lock-in polluting technologies and carbon-intensive industries. Investments should instead support the solutions we need to avert climate breakdown, create good jobs, advance environmental justice, and support livable communities,” added Boeve.

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