Bank of America begins process of divesting from fossil fuels

By James Noble

May 21, 2015

Joining universities, cities, charities and pension funds, the ranks of the divestment movement grew when Bank of America announced that it too will be dialing back its investment activity in the fossil fuel industry.

Announced at its annual meeting this month, Bank of America’s new policy specifically addresses the coal industry and the bank’s plans to cut lending to coal extraction companies and the coal divisions of mining companies.

The move is the latest in a series of announcements in support of a wider fossil fuel divestment movement, with universities and large asset owners pulling out of traditional, high-carbon energy investment.  Most notably, the Rockefeller Foundation, one of the largest and most influential non-profit organizations globally, announced last year that it would immediately divest from investments in coal and oil from tar sands, and that it plans to further divest from investments in other fossil fuels.

Last month, HSBC released a report to confirm that it sees the divestment movement at the beginning of a trend that could result in a challenging credit environment for some fossil fuel companies and their major projects.

The divestment campaign started to take root in 2012 when climate campaigners like 350.org and the Energy Action Coalition began advocating for divesting funds away from fossil fuel companies. Since then, the effort has grown internationally with campaigns underway in Australia, Canada, South Africa, the United States and beyond.

In Canada, the divestment campaign has gained its largest foothold in universities and colleges, with 34 active campus-based divestment groups spread across nine provinces. In November 2014, Concordia University became the first university in Canada to agree to partially divest its endowment from fossil fuels. 

In line with a similar student vote last year, faculty at the University of British Columbia have voted in favour of divesting its $1.2 billion endowment fund from oil, natural gas and coal within the next five years to ensure a fossil-free investment portfolio. At the moment, the proposition rests with UBC’s board of governors. Meanwhile, students at other academic institutions, including the University of Calgary, are planning to launch their own divestment campaign.



Photo Credit: eeetthaannn