As islands face destruction, it's time to divest

by Kathy Jetnil- Kijiner, Marshall Islands
Monday, 9 February 2015 14:58 GMT

Binata Pinata and her husband Kaibakia walk towards their huts on Bikeman Islet, located off South Tarawa in the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati, May 25, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Around the Pacific, activists are mobilising to protect their homes

The Fossil Fuel Divestment movement has become the fastest growing divestment campaign in history as thousands of people, from all around the world, are uniting to collectively delegitimise the fossil fuel industry.

I am proud to say that the Pacific Climate Warriors across my region are joining the divestment movement. For us divestment provides the strongest means to address this climate crisis, which is directly threatening our very existence.

On the 13th and 14th of February, Pacific Islanders are organising events as part of Global Divestment Day. We will be celebrating the incredible growth and increasingly international reach of the fossil fuel divestment movement joining over 500 active divestment campaigns underway worldwide at universities, cities, churches, banks, pension funds and other institutions.

Here in the Marshall Islands, we are planning a campus-wide, student-led march. We will be shutting down the streets, walking with banners and passing out fliers to encourage other organisations and institutions on the island to divest. Following the march, students will take part in creating a mural narrating the message of the divestment campaign.

In Papua New Guinea, youth will come together to relay one clear message, calling on banks, companies, corporations and people to divest from fossil fuels and invest in a future safe for our children. The team in Vanuatu, on the other hand, is organising a panel discussion with representatives from youth groups, banks and the government's Department of Energy to discuss divestment and its significance.

All around the Pacific, we are mobilising to protect our island homes.

Continued investment in the fossil fuel industry equals continued investment in climate change, and continued destruction in the Pacific. The divestment campaign highlights a conflict that most politicians are reluctant to address.

If the world is to avoid catastrophic global warming, most known fossil fuel resources need to stay in the ground. As world leaders plan to gather in Paris later this year to attempt once again to secure a global deal to address the climate crisis, divestment provides the means to take back power from the fossil fuel industry and deliver a mandate for bold climate leadership before it’s too late.

The threat to the Marshall Islands with climate change means that rising sea levels and flooding will increase in frequency, making my home unlivable.

Global Divestment Day is important for the Pacific because it is our opportunity to directly challenge the social license of the industries that profit from wrecking our homes and this planet.

The College of the Marshall Islands decided to divest because it knew that universities, companies, banks and industries must no longer invest in the destruction of our Pacific. They must align their money with their morals and we must continuously make sure they do.

It is clear that there is no space for fossil fuels anymore. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that in order to overcome the climate crisis, the world would have to cut fossil fuel investments annually between now and 2029. Such investments must be directed instead towards renewable sources of energy.

The strength of the Global Divestment Day is that it has the potential to be the turning point for this movement working to delegitimise the fossil fuel industry, and push for a future where both people and planet are safeguarded.

It is this strength that we will continue to build here in the Pacific. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to resolve this climate crisis. It's not the time to be complacent. We ask those who are not already part of this movement to join us.