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To honour the 100th anniversary of their founder, Nelson Mandela, The Elders chose to celebrate grassroots leaders working for the freedoms Madiba dedicated his life; peace, health, justice and equality. This organisation, or ‘Spark of Hope’, is one of 100 organisations each representing a unique idea for a freer, fairer world the Elders want to see.


The burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes have contributed to 78% of the 90% overall increase in CO2 emissions since 1970.


Research shows that 80% of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground for us to stay below 2°C of warming. But with the demand for energy increasing across the world, the desire for ‘development as usual’ continues to come into conflict with the pressing need to decrease emissions in order to tackle climate change.


With achingly slow progress at the national and international levels, the divestment movement is taking a different approach to take on the industry that is the largest contributor to climate change. They are an international network of campaigns and campaigners working toward freeing communities from fossil fuels. They target public and private institutions, encouraging them to put their money where their mouth is, and commit to divesting from the harmful industry and invest instead in climate change solutions. Through this means they are accelerating the transition to a zero-carbon economy.


What started as a student-led movement on university campuses, has now grown to involve 893 institutions and nearly 60,000 individuals from across 76 countries who have pledged to divest and reinvest. The approximate value of the institutions divesting is now an incredible $6.15 trn. Institutions that have committed to divest include local governments, philanthropic foundations, universities, NGOs, pension funds and faith-based organisations.


Fossil Free is the organising branch of that focus on divestment, and unites a huge network of divestment campaigners, connecting and supporting local groups around the world who demand: a fast and just transition to 100% renewable energy for all; no new fossil fuel projects anywhere; not a penny more for dirty energy.


In January 2018, after more than five years of inspiring and creative campaigning from the climate movement, New York City announced plans to freeze new investments in fossil fuels and divest its pension funds. The announcement came just a month after New York State called on the state employee retirement system to divest. Combined, the city and state pension funds are worth $390 billion, making this the largest pension coal, oil and gas divestment in the world. This was a major win for New Yorkers, campaigners and undeniably, the planet. As founder Bill McKibben stated: “The dam has broken: after years of great activism, New York has taken a massive step towards divesting from fossil fuels. Coming from the capital of world finance, this will resonate loud and clear all over the planet. It’s a crucial sign of how fast the financial pendulum is swinging away from fossil fuels.”


Fossil Free and the divestment movement has mobilised broad sectors of society around the moral imperative to align their values with actions, and stop funding the fossil fuel companies that have known their responsibility for causing climate change for decades, yet failed to change. Recognising that divesting is not the sole answer, they campaign for investment in climate solutions, encouraging organisations and individuals to fill the $5.2 trn renewable energy investment gap in order to meet the Paris climate goals and lead the global energy transition.



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