Can the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement Win in Oil-Rich Colorado?

For over a century, fossil fuels have been more than just the world's primary energy source; they've been a bedrock of the global financial system, an engine of economic growth and a safe investment for governments, pension funds, charitable endowments and other institutions around the world. If we hope to stop climate change before its effects become catastrophic, that will inevitably have to change — and many climate activists want it to change as soon as possible.“Public money is being invested in companies that are directly contributing to climate change,” says Deborah McNamara, an activist with the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, which includes more than two dozen environmental and social-justice groups from around the state. “Here in Colorado, money is being invested in fracking companies. Do we want our public money being invested in these companies that are polluting our air and water?”

After years of disappointment, the “Fossil Free” investing movement has picked up steam around the world and in Colorado, where — despite opposition from the state's powerful oil and gas industry — it’s won some small victories, including an announcement last month that the City and County of Denver plans to dump its investments in fossil fuel companies.

Globally, activists say, they’ve secured divestment commitments from more than 1,000 public and private institutions in dozens of countries, representing $8.7 trillion in managed assets. Last year, New York City announced plans to begin divesting its $200 billion pension system from fossil fuels within the next five years, by far the largest public divestment pledge yet made in the U.S.But global financial markets change slowly, and short-term incentives still largely favor continued fossil fuel development and investment in the companies that profit from it. By and large, there remains a lack of political will for divestment on the massive scale that some environmental groups believe is urgently needed — a reality that Colorado divestment activists once again encountered earlier this week.After an hour-long hearing at the State Capitol on Monday, April 8, lawmakers on the House Finance Committee voted overwhelmingly to defeat House Bill 1270, a proposal to require the state’s pension system to simply study the risks of its fossil fuel investments.

*To read the full article by Chase Woodruff in Westword on April 10th, click here. 

Deb McNamara