We cannot phase out dirty energy without stopping the money pipeline that keeps fossil fuels flowing. That’s why we are working to ensure that financing is fossil-free, not only to safeguard communities and the planet, but also to protect the financial futures of people around the world.
A rapidly accelerating number of institutions, from pension funds to university endowments, are shifting their money out of fossil fuels. But too many are still investing in oil and gas companies, tying people’s savings to an industry that is at the end of its life and at odds with our collective future.
In 2013, ExxonMobil was the most valuable company on the planet. In the summer of 2020, it was kicked off the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Exxon’s descent is emblematic of the industry’s broader decline. In the past decade, the oil and gas sector has fallen to the bottom of the S&P 500. As the world warms and pressure mounts to wean economies off fossil fuels, it has become increasingly clear that investing in oil and gas is simply a bad financial bet.
In the last year, we’ve been working to make that fact plain, profiling the financial frailty of the oil and gas industry and the risks it presents to public and private investors, as well as frontline communities. Our report, Debt-Driven Dividends & Asset Fire Sales, demonstrates why investing in fossil fuels is throwing good money after bad. Toxic Assets: Making Polluters Pay When the Wells Run Dry and the Bill Comes Due confronts the industry’s hazardous legacy and outlines urgent action needed to ensure the cleanup costs fall on companies, not communities. Both reports underscore the significant financial risks posed by oil and gas production — from start-up to shut-down. And they offer a stark warning to countries where new drilling is underway: tethering the future to oil and gas courts economic and environmental disaster.
We’ve also been working to get the rules right, shaping financial regulations in the US that could reshape the future of responsible investing. After months of advocacy and public pushback, the Department of Labor stopped enforcing a Trump-era rule that made it harder for pension plans to pursue sustainable investments. Now, CIEL is educating and engaging partners, regulators, and policymakers working to rewrite the rules and promote climate-safe investment through new legislation. This includes urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to require companies to disclose climate risks related to their fossil fuel investments.
Making finance fossil-free is not just about greening private portfolios. It’s also about halting public funding for oil and gas. In June, CIEL joined the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth in bringing suit against the US Development Finance Corporation to compel greater transparency in its ongoing funding for fossil fuels and other projects globally. Together with international partners, CIEL is working to ensure governments around the world stop subsidizing fossil fuels and commit to financing the future.