350 Chicago won fossil fuel divestment in the city of Chicago.
Now we intend to push Illinois to divest from fossil fuel assets.
Based on the climate math, we believe it is both a moral imperative and a financially smart decision to divest from fossil fuels.
The Climate Math
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that humanity has a “carbon budget” – a finite amount of carbon that we can burn before global warming exceeds certain deeply problematic levels. In 2022, the IPCC estimated that our remaining carbon budget from 2020 onwards was 500 gigatons of CO2, to give us a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C. To have a chance of limiting warming to 2°C – a level that has been described as “a prescription for long-term disaster” – our carbon budget from 2020 onwards is 1150 gigatons.
Yet fossil fuel companies have more than 2,910 gigatons in their reserves – way more than we could ever use safely. The vast majority of their reserves will thus need to become “stranded assets” – kept underground and never burned. Researchers estimate that the value of global stranded assets currently exceeds US$1 trillion (and possibly much more), with most of the risk falling on investors in OECD countries like the U.S.
Ensuring that most of these fossil fuel reserves are stranded is critical. We are currently on track to blow past our carbon budget, with catastrophic consequences. As the UN Secretary General recently noted, humanity is at a crossroads when it comes to climate action: “We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”
At this moment in history, every fraction of a degree matters. The best way to stay within our carbon budget is to move as quickly as possible away from fossil fuels. Divestment is a critical tool in the push to rapidly decarbonize our society.
Divestment is a Moral Imperative and a Financially Prudent Decision
In light of the climate math, divestment is both ethical and financially smart. Continuing to burn coal, oil, and gas to power our economic system significantly degrades the climate while harming frontline communities and people of color with disease-causing pollutants. Going forward, institutions across the planet need to discontinue investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and re-invest in climate solutions, especially in BIPOC communities affected by a history of environmental racism.
Fossil fuel divestment campaigns work in part by removing the social license of coal, oil and gas companies to operate, while weakening their economic and political power. Our institutions must draw a hard line against an industry whose actions result in the disastrous destabilization of our climate and the devastating degradation of communities across the planet. Governments, central banks, and corporations must refuse to invest in business models that contribute overwhelmingly to the destruction of the planet.
Fossil fuel divestment is also a good investment strategy. Divesting helps to avoid the market risk of stranded assets, a risk that will only grow as the carbon bubble starts to burst. In addition, divestment gives investors more opportunities to reinvest in the sustainable energy transition.
(Interested in learning more about divesting from fossil fuels in your own investment portfolio and retirement accounts? See our Divestment for Individuals information.)
How to divest the state of Illinois from fossil fuels?
We are building grassroots support to divest the state of Illinois from fossil fuel assets. Our work builds on the success of our fossil fuel divestment victory in the city of Chicago.
Our grassroots advocacy throughout the state seeks to encourage lawmakers and policymakers in the Illinois legislature to pass a fossil fuel divestment bill into law. This law would immediately ban any new investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies, and would direct the State to divest, within five years, from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds. Such divestment would cover the State’s investment portfolio as well as the various pension funds maintained by the State.
We are also working to build support from pensioners and union members to pressure the Pension Boards to divest State pension money as well.
We need volunteers and allied organizations across the state to contact their state representatives and senators, demanding fossil fuel divestment legislation.
If you have a few minutes, call your state senator and state representative (you can find their contact info here) and use the following script to ask for divestment legislation:
Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from [CITY/TOWN, ZIP]. I’m calling because I’m very concerned about the climate crisis, and want to urge [Representative/Senator NAME] to support legislation requiring the state of Illinois to divest from fossil fuel assets. Other states have already committed to divesting from fossil fuels, and Chicago recently did as well. I hope that Illinois will be next. Thank you!