Environmental Groups Have Serious Investments in Fossil Fuel Industries

Time for Big Green to Go Fossil Free
by Naomi Klein in The Nation

"The movement demanding that public interest institutions divest their holdings from fossil fuels is on a serious roll. At last count, there were active divestment campaigns on 305 campuses and in more than 100 US cities and states. The demand has spread to Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Britain. And though officially launched just six months ago, the movement can already claim some provisional victories: four US colleges have announced their intention to divest their endowments from fossil fuel stocks and bonds, and in late April ten US cities made similar commitments, including San Francisco (Seattle came on board months ago).

But I now realize that an important target is missing from the list: the environmental organizations themselves.

One would assume that green groups would want to make absolutely sure that the money they have raised in the name of saving the planet is not being invested in the companies whose business model requires cooking said planet, and which have been sabotaging all attempts at serious climate action for more than two decades.

But in some cases at least, that was a false assumption. Maybe that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, since some of the most powerful and wealthiest environmental organizations have long behaved as if they had a stake in the oil and gas industry. They led the climate movement down various dead ends: carbon trading, carbon offsets, natural gas as a “bridge fuel”—what these policies all held in common is that they created the illusion of progress while allowing the fossil fuel companies to keep mining, drilling and fracking with abandon. We always knew that the groups pushing hardest for these false solutions took donations from, and formed corporate partnerships with, the big emitters. But this was explained away as an attempt at constructive engagement—using the power of the market to fix market failures.

Now it turns out that some green groups are literally part owners of the industry causing the crisis they are purportedly trying to solve. And the money the green groups have to play with is serious. The Nature Conservancy, for instance, has $1.4 billion in publicly traded securities, and boasts that its piggybank is “among the 100 largest endowments in the country.” The Wildlife Conservation Society has a $377 million endowment [… and i]ts financial statement for fiscal year 2012 describes a subcategory of investments that includes “energy, mining, oil drilling, and agricultural businesses.” How much of WCS’s $377 million endowment is being held in energy and drilling companies? It failed to provide that information despite repeated requests.”

Click here to read the whole article and here to see a chart of how much various “big green” groups are investing in climate-wrecking industries.

Related: Cory Morningstar’s article about the environmental non-profit industrial complex and John Stauber’s “The Progressive Movement is a PR Front Group for Rich Democrats

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