Big Oil’s heirs join call for action as climate summit opens – ‘There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet’Posted by Jim at Wednesday, September 24, 2014
(Washington Post) – For 140 years, the Rockefellers were the oil industry’s first family, scions of a business empire that spawned companies called Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, and Chevron. So it was no trivial matter when a group of Rockefeller heirs decided recently to begin severing financial ties to fossil fuels.
“There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet,” said Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, a great-great-granddaughter of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller Sr. and a trustee of the largest charitable foundation in which the family still plays the leading role.
On Monday, the foundation, known as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, will formally announce plans to begin divesting itself of fossil-fuel stocks, citing concerns about climate change. The symbolic cutting of ties to a key part of the family’s heritage is being timed with the start of another symbolism-laden event: a gathering of world leaders to grapple with the environmental consequences of decades of fossil-fuel burning.
President Obama will join heads of state from more than 120 countries Tuesday at an unusual climate summit convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The meeting in New York is aimed at persuading governments to do more to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the face of new evidence of an accelerating buildup of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The high-level gathering — the biggest since a troubled round of international climate negotiations in Copenhagen five years ago — is likely to underscore the diplomatic and political difficulties ahead as the governments seek to hammer out a treaty limiting global greenhouse-gas emissions by late next year. The Obama administration separately faces tough negotiations with overseas trading partners China and India over proposed cuts in fossil-fuel burning, while also defending its climate policies against attacks from Republican opponents in Washington.
But the perception of halting progress on climate politics stands in sharp contrast with an increasingly energetic movement that will be on display on the summit’s periphery. An unlikely coalition of groups — including corporate executives, philanthropists and urban planners — are in New York this week to showcase practical steps being implemented to address the causes of climate change and mitigate its effects.
Entrepreneurs and businesses will promote technology breakthroughs that are making wind and solar power competitive with more traditional energy sources in some parts of the country. And investors and foundations with collective holdings in the tens of billions of dollars will formally join a global “divest-invest” movement that seeks to shift capital from fossil-fuel extraction to renewable energy.
New participants in the movement, such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, say their decision reflects not only concerns about the environment but also a belief that renewables are becoming an increasingly sound investment at a time of growing uncertainty about the future of fossil fuels such as coal.
“The action we’re taking is symbolism, but it is important symbolism,” said Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which controls nearly $900 million in assets. “We’re making a moral case, but also, increasingly, an economic case.” [more]