Amid a persistent vacuum in climate leadership worldwide, and as speculation builds that the U.S. will pull out of the Paris Agreement, concerned citizens from over 45 countries have come together to call for divestment from fossil fuels as a part of the Global Divestment Mobilization.
The theme of this global mobilization is “climate change impacts.” The World Meteorological Organization announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record since observations began in the 1880s. Record-breaking temperatures are just one of many extreme weather patterns, such as large scale droughts and floods, and more powerful typhoons observed across the planet in 2016.
The impacts of climate change affect every living being on the planet, but it is the most vulnerable countries that face the greatest devastation from climate change. Meanwhile, climate change progresses at an increasingly fast pace and the scientific community has concluded that the situation is dire and getting worse.
Despite warnings from the scientific community and peoples across the world who are facing the impacts of climate change today, we nevertheless see governments worldwide turning a blind eye to the problem. In such times, a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement would be a significant blow to international action on climate change. Whether the U.S. pulls out of the Paris Agreement or not, it is clear that the Trump administration’s dismantling of the climate-protecting regulations put in place by the Obama administration are promoting the interests of the fossil fuel industry over the health of people and the planet.
These actions are a direct affront to the voices of a global climate movement demanding a rapid shift away from fossil fuels to preserve a safe climate. In late April, those voices converged on the streets of 600 cities for the March for Science and in Washington, D.C. for the People's Climate March demanding action for a safe climate, jobs and justice. Those voices were echoed in the streets of East Asia, too, in sister marches that were organized on the same days.
East Asia is a critical region for climate action and hence the divestment movement. Many fossil fuel extraction sites and coal-fired power plants operate in East Asia and are set to increase as newly developing economies seek cheap power to meet growing demand. Many of those developments are financed by Japan’s export credit agencies and Japan’s private banks.
Japanese financing in unsustainable energy projects does not stop in East Asia, but reaches across the planet. Japanese money in the Dakota Access Pipeline project, for example, put Japan in the middle of a significant social issue in the U.S. Of the 17 major international banks involved in financing the 3.8 billion USD pipeline project, the 3 Japanese megabanks (Mizuho Bank, Mitsubishi-Tokyo UFJ, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation) were responsible for providing almost half the project finance. This project has been strongly opposed by First Nations groups and environment campaigners worldwide for its infringement of human rights and potential ecological damages, sparking a global divestment campaign urging individuals, groups and cities to divest their accounts from the 17 banks funding the project.
On the back of global solidarity opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, a campaign launched recently by a group of 121 North American First Nations groups calls for divestment from banks who are funding 4 major oil and tar sand pipeline projects on the continent. The 3 Japanese megabanks are also included in the target bank list. In this context, fossil fuel finance by Japanese banks will face a growing chorus of scrutiny by concerned citizens and investors alike who recognise continued investments in fossil fuels as a risky and unethical business.
The divestment movement is the solution to take power back from the interests of fossil fuel companies and build a more sustainable future based on renewable energy. This movement aims to politically and morally bankrupt the fossil fuel industry and mobilize a new generation of climate and water protectors to push for just solutions.
710 institutions spanning over 76 countries have already announced plans to divest, in some form or another, from fossil fuels. Their total assets under management is reported to be well over 5.5 trillion USD. Even the heads of the Bank of England and the World Bank are drawing attention to the risk of carbon assets.
As the movement grows in East Asia, Japan will be under increasing pressure to put an end to its financing of unsustainable fossil fuels.
In Japan, on May 13 and 14, we will use the Global Divestment Mobilization as a vehicle to inform consumers that the money they put into their banks is being pooled into fossil fuel projects worldwide and, in turn, destroying a habitable climate for all. Through a special event promoting positive choices to protect the planet, we will encourage individuals, groups and companies to divest their accounts from fossil fuel and nuclear financing banks and support a just transition in line with the Paris Agreement.
With the right energy in the right places, the climate change deniers in the halls of power will not be able to drown out the voices of those who are committed to protecting the Earth.