CCD Editor’s Note: It seems Al Gore, Tom Steyer, et al aren’t the only ones who’ve profited from fossil fuel investments.
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The charity run by Bill and Melinda Gates, who say the threat of climate change is so serious that immediate action is needed, held at least $1.4bn (£1bn) of investments in the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, according to a Guardian analysis of the charity’s most recent tax filing in 2013.
The companies include BP, responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Anadarko Petroleum, which was recently forced to pay a $5bn environmental clean-up charge and Brazilian mining company Vale, voted the corporation with most “contempt for the environment and human rights” in the world clocking over 25,000 votes in the Public Eye annual awards.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Asset Trust is the world’s largest charitable foundation, with an endowment of over $43bn, and has already given out $33bn in grants to health programmes around the world, including one that helped rid India of polio in 2014.
A Guardian campaign, launched on Monday and already backed by over 95,000 people is asking the Gates to sell their fossil fuel investments. It argues: “Your organisation has made a huge contribution to human progress … yet your investments in fossil fuels are putting this progress at great risk. It is morally and financially misguided to invest in companies dedicated to finding and burning more oil, gas and coal.”
Existing fossil fuel reserves are several times greater than can be burned if the world’s governments are to fulfil their pledge to keep global warming below the danger limit of 2C, but fossil fuel companies continue to spend billions on exploration. In addition to the climate risk, the Bank of England and others argue that fossil fuel assets may pose a “huge risk” to pension funds and other investors as they could be rendered worthless by action to slash carbon emissions.
A landmark report citing climate change published by the Lancet medical journal and University College London concluded that climate change is “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”.
In their annual letter in January, Bill and Melinda Gates wrote: “The long-term threat [of climate change] is so serious that the world needs to move much more aggressively – right now – to develop energy sources that are cheaper, can deliver on demand, and emit zero carbon dioxide.”
The Guardian analysis of the Gates endowment revealed investments in 35 of the top 200 companies as ranked by the carbon held in their reserves. These included coal giants Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Glencore Xstrata and Peabody Energy, the oil majors Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Total and Brazilian oil company Petrobras, currently embroiled in a corruption scandal.
“This is very shocking. I never knew that they had so much of this kind of investment,” said Nnimmo Bassey, a Nigerian activist who received the Right Livelihood Award in 2010 for “revealing the full ecological and human horrors of oil production” in the Niger delta where many oil majors operate. “If this is a charity that really care about the health of the people, they ought not to be investing in fossil fuel industries. They should pull back their resources from this sector completely.”