The heirs of the Rockefeller family, who made their fortune on oil, will sell their fossil fuel investments to reinvest in clean energy.
The announcement was made by Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, on Monday on the eve of the climate change summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York, and in the aftermath of massive marches around the world, which have ended up in the same town.
The Fund joins a coalition of philanthropists committed to divesting more than $ 50 billion in fossil fuel assets as part of this initiative.
Some 650 people and 180 institutions make up the coalition.
It is part of a growing global initiative called Global Divest-Invest, which started several years ago on university grounds.
Commitments from pension funds, religious groups and major universities have reportedly doubled since the start of 2014.
Vision for the future
Heintz said the decision to divest his investments in the fossil fuel sector would be in line with the wishes of oil mogul John Davison Rockefeller.
«We are convinced that if he were alive today, as a savvy businessman who looked to the future, he would ditch fossil fuels to invest in clean and renewable energy,» Heintz said in a statement. .
Rockefeller was one of the founders, in 1870, of the Standard Oil Company, which became the largest petroleum refining company in the world and through which he became the richest man on the planet.
The philanthropic organization was founded in 1940 by the Rockefeller sons.
At the end of July 2014, the fund’s investment assets were valued at US $ 860 million.
«There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet,» said Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, Rockefeller’s great-great-granddaughter and administrator of the Fund, as quoted by the newspaper. The Washington Post.
Ivo Welch, professor of finance and economics at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, told BBC Mundo that «it’s hard to speculate on the Rockefellers’ motivations for making this decision, but they are very concerned about global warming and fossil fuels.
“Unfortunately, there are two problems with this: if we say that we have achieved what we set out to do and get rid of fossil fuels, the world will be a better place, but there are too many very poor people whose life will be much more miserable and they risk dying if they do not have access to energy at reasonable prices, ”he said.
It is also possible that the Rockefeller’s decision will be profitable.
“A lot of people have argued that they would be worse off if they gave up investing in energy, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case,” Welch said. «I think the markets are pretty efficient and pay a reasonable price; you lose a little without diversification, but not a lot.»
125 heads of state and government are expected to attend the climate change summit at UN headquarters on Tuesday. This is the first meeting of this nature after the failure of the Copenhagen conference in 2009.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hopes leaders can make progress towards a universal climate agreement that will be signed by all countries by the end of 2015.
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in more than 2,000 cities around the world, demanding urgent action on climate change and restrictions on carbon emissions. The marches were also joined by business leaders, environmental activists and celebrities.
Professor Welch does not consider Rockefeller’s announcement in this context to be opportunistic: «I don’t think it makes a difference, the markets are giving oil companies good returns given all the protests and UN events; it is very difficult to be opportunistic and to make money, which is what everyone is trying to do in the financial markets ”.
“The Rockefellers, as far as I know, do not have inside information about the global supply or demand for oil, which influences the stock markets,” he said. «The oil market is so efficient, it’s such a big part of the economy, that there’s no easy way to predict what it’s going to do.»
Even if the motivation of the Rockefellers is ethical, the void in their investments in fossil fuels will be filled by others.
“I think they understand that whatever they decide, it won’t have much of an impact on the world’s fossil fuels, so I don’t think they’re laughing at themselves,” Welch said. . «Still, they think it’s the right decision.»
«I believe that humanity is in trouble and we have to find alternatives to fossil fuels and the way to achieve this is to invent better and cleaner technology, not by divestment,» he concluded.