Mayor Soglin Urges Madison to Continue Divestment from Fossil Fuels

April 26, 2013

Joins 10 cities to launch a national campaign to divest cities and states from the fossil fuel industry

Madison - Mayor Soglin joined ten other mayors from across the country to launch a new, nationwide campaign to divest city funds from the fossil fuel industry.

"Madison does not invest in any fossil fuel companies now," said Mayor Paul Soglin. "The week of Earth Day is a good time to commit to maintaining that, and we urge other municipalities to join us."

The Mayor will introduce a resolution that encourages the Madison Metropolitan School District, Dane County, the University of Wisconsin, the State of Wisconsin, and other local governments to join the City in these efforts and divest their own holdings from fossil fuel companies.

Today's announcements launch the next phase for the fossil fuel divestment campaign that has already spread to over 300 colleges and universities. Four colleges, Hampshire, Sterling, Unity, and College of the Atlantic, have committed to divestment and dozens more are considering the move. The movement is quickly spreading to faith communities, as well.

Last November, Mayor Mike McGinn in Seattle became the first mayor in the country to commit to keep city funds out of the fossil fuel industry and look into ways to divest the city's pension fund. McGinn is now encouraging other mayors to join Seattle and commit to divestment.

The city divestment campaign is coordinated by a coalition of groups led by 350.org, an international climate campaign, and the Mayors Innovation Project, a learning network for mayors from across the country. The effort is modeled on the 1980s divestment campaigns that targeted investments in apartheid South Africa.

"Cities are taking the lead on the issue of climate change," said Joel Rogers, Director of the Mayors Innovation Project. "In the face of federal and state inaction, cities know they have to protect themselves."

"It's so fitting that American cities are taking the lead in the fight to weaken the fossil fuel industry's political power," said Bill McKibben, a prominent environmentalist and founder of 350.org. "Since every city public works department is already spending scads of cash to deal with the gathering storms and rising seas climate change is bringing, it's clear it makes no sense for them to also prop up the industries that make it necessary."

Fossil fuel divestment may prove to be a good financial move, as well. A recent study by the Aperio Group, a financial advisory firm, concluded that fossil fuel divestment would increase a portfolio's risk by only around 0.01%. The report's lead author, Patrick Geddes, a former CFO for MorningStar and former analyst for the oil company Amoco, told reporters on a recent webinar that, "Statistically, it's basically noise."

At the same time, many are raising concerns about the risks of staying invested in the fossil fuel industry. According to a new report by HSBC, if countries agree to meet the 2°C target and pass regulations strong enough to keep 75-80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, the write off of those reserves could cause loss in market value of up to 60% for fossil fuel companies like BP, Shell, and Chevron. Earlier this year, Oxford University launched a new program to study the risk a "carbon bubble" could pose to the market.

Contact:
  • Katie Crawley, 608-266-4611