One of the most promising efforts to curtail tar sands development is the commitment of cities, universities, foundations, businesses and religious institutions to stop using tar sands-based products or investing in companies that profit from tar sands production.
In 2013, fossil fuel divestment campaigns spread like wildfire around the globe. So far, 29 municipalities, 13 universities and colleges, and dozens of foundations and religious institutions worldwide have agreed to stop investing in companies involved in the production and promotion of tar sands crude.
Numerous businesses have passed resolutions to stop using tar sands-derived fuels, and more than a few municipalities have decided to prohibit the transport of tar sands crude through theri communities.
- - Companies, municipalities, universities, and religious institutions to no tar sands in their fuel supplies and investment portfolios
- Key Problems:
- - Tar sands oil is significantly dirtier than alternatives
- - Many companies, cities and states and the entire European Union are taking action to reduce emissions
- Current Status:
- - 19 global corporations, 30 municipalities, 13 universities and colleges, dozens of religious institutions, and the EU have adopted policies unfavourable to tar sands
Cities, churches, universities and businesses across North America and Europe are taking climate action seriously by refusing to purchase tar sands fuel or invest in tar sands companies. Others have adopted policies to prohibit the use or transport of tar sands-related products.
Bellingham, Washington, adopted new guidelines to minimize fuel purchasing from refineries taking feed stock from Canada’s tar sands. Building on the Bellingham model, dozens of New England towns and municipalities have also committed to going Tar Sands Free. Twenty-nine towns and cities in Vermont, including Burlington, the state’s largest city, passed resolutions opposing the transportation of tar sands crude through “The Green Mountain State” and committing to eliminating the use of tar sands-derived fuels in the area. Three towns in Maine – Bethel, Casco and Waterford – have passed similar resolutions, and the list grows every month.
In Maine, South Portland City Council passed an ordinance that prevents the Portland Pipe Line Corporation or others from building the large, polluting smokestacks necessary to load any form of tar sands crude oil onto tankers in its beautiful coastal port.
The business community also has joined the opposition to Canada’s dirty tar sands fuels. So far nearly twenty large businesses have publicly announced actions they have taken to reduce the environmental and social impacts of fossil-fueled transportation. Popular brands including Avon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Chiquita, eBay, Trader Joes, Walgreens and Whole Foods are all committed to reducing their use of dirty fuels like tar sands in their operations.
If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. Institutions and governments that purport to serve the public good should not invest in, and profit from, from the extraction, production and consumption of fossil fuels. Just 200 publicly-traded companies hold the vast majority of the world’s proven coal, oil and gas reserves. 350.org’s Fossil Free campaign has inspired hundreds of campaigns all over the world to encourage universities, religious institutions, and city and municipal governments to reject tar sands oil as a responsible source of energy and jettison their investments in tar sands companies.
It’s working. So far, 30 municipalities, 13 universities and colleges, 19 corporations and dozens of foundations and religious institutions worldwide have agreed to stop investing in companies involved in the production and promotion of tar sands crude.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, for instance, has directed his staff not to invest the city’s $1.4 billion operating fund in fossil fuel companies, and has asked the governing board to do likewise for the city’s pension fund. The Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), an international conservation organization whose mission is to save threatened species by making conservation efforts more effective, decided to divest its investment portfolio of fossil fuel companies so it can “serve as a model and provide an invitation to the zoo and aquarium community to join us in this movement. The Sante Fe Art Institute and the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee have followed suit.
The overwhelming commitment to avoiding tar sands-related investment vehicles and products is a welcome sign that society is beginning to understand that the risks associated with tar sands development are incompatible with a clean energy economy and a sustainable future that prevents the catastrophic impacts of climate change.