Divestment from Fossil Fuels and the Implications for the Paris Agreement – University of Copenhagen

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Divestment from Fossil Fuels and the Implications for the Paris Agreement

Sustainability Science Centre is proud to present a sustainability lecture on 21 November 2016 by Dr. Bob Massie, from the Sustainable Solutions Lab, University of Massachusetts Boston.

Dr. Bob Massie will talk on divestment from fossil fuels and the implications for the Paris Agreement. Katherine Richardson, Professor in Biological Oceanography, Leader of Sustainability Science Centre, University of Copenhagen, will moderate the talk.

Large institutional shareholders have strong fiduciary duties to act in the best interest of their beneficiaries. But what does “best interest” mean? Does it mean simply to track past results of various asset classes and remain balanced between them? Or is there an active duty to examine the future and to make decisions in the light of emerging global trends and financial data? In addition, in making decisions for their beneficiaries, should institutional investors, who are often passive long-term investors, get engaged with more fundamental issues of corporate governance and of social and environmental performance, especially if these impacts are likely to have long-term impacts on the markets and on the beneficiaries themselves?

Though these challenging questions have gradually altered the landscape of international corporate governance and capital markets over the last 50 years, they have become urgent in the aftermath of the COP 21 agreements in Paris in 2015.  We now have both global acknowledgement of the planetary climate crisis and commitment to dramatic – though still inadequate – reductions in carbon emissions. At the same time, our planet is being dragged down by an immense international fossil fuel network which continues to locate, extract, and burn fossil fuel reserves that are certain to inflict severe damage on the world’s people and biosphere.

Given these circumstances, what is the responsibility of the world’s largest institutional investors? Should they engage with fossil fuel companies to try to pressure them to change? If so, what would success look like? If not, what other tactics are available?  And if engagement does not work, at what point – both financially and morally – should an investors divest themselves of ownership in this rogue industry?

Bob Massie has been working on business, finance, governance, and sustainability for more than thirty years. Dr. Massie received his A.B. magna cum laude from Princeton University in 1978, a master's degree in social and theological ethics from Yale Divinity School in 1982, and a doctorate in business policy and corporate strategy from Harvard Business School in 1989.

In 1993, as a senior Fulbright Scholar, he was visiting member of the faculty of the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business. His definitive history of the U.S. anti-apartheid movement "Loosing the Bonds: The United States and South Africa in the Apartheid Years" was published in 1998 by Doubleday. It received the Lionel Gelber Prize, the largest non-fiction prize in the world, given for the best book in English on foreign relations.

From 1996 to 2003, Massie served as the executive director of Ceres, a powerful coalition of institutional investors and environmental and public interest groups in the United States. From 1998 to 2005 he was the co-founder and first chair of the Global Reporting Initiative, a sustainability disclosure standard now in use by nearly 10,000 global multinationals.

In 2002 he conceived of the first Institutional Investor Summit on Climate Risk at United Nations headquarters, which led in 2003 to the formation to the Investor Network on Climate Risk (www.incr.com). INCR is an active alliance of 100 U.S. pension funds worth more than $11 trillion who have moved dozens of major utilities, insurance companies, investment banks, and other key industries to assess the financial costs of climate change.

From 2012 to 2014 Dr. Massie was the president of the New Economy Coalition, an organization of more than 120 US, English, and Canadian organizations interested in new models of business and economics to achieve a just and sustainable world.

In November 2015 he became the executive director of the Sustainable Solutions Lab (SSL) at UMass Boston, a new entity created jointly by the School for the Environment, the College of Management, the College of Liberal Arts, and the McCormack Graduate School for Policy and Global Studies. SSL focuses on intersection of climate change and social justice in Boston and other coastal cities in the United States.

Admission is free: Please register for the event

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