Our Common Future Under Climate Change

International Scientific Conference 7-10 JULY 2015 Paris, France

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  • 73 A safe future for fossil fuel investments in a carbon-constrained world ?



Organizers : University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom; Columbia University, New York, United States of America; Harvard University, Cambridge, United States of America
Date : July 9, 2015, 5:00-7:00pm
Location : Columbia Law School, Jerome Greene Hall, Room 105
Expected number of participants : 50-100
Nature of participants : Academics, Industry Representatives, Non-Governmental Organisations, Media
Keywords : Divestment, Fossil fuels, Stranded assets, Carbon bubble
Keynote speakers :
  • Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University
  • Ken Cohen, Vice President, Public and Government Affairs, ExxonMobil
  • Stephen Coll, Dean and Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University
  • Patrick C. McGinley, Charles H. Haden II Professor of Law, West Virginia University College of Law
  • Michael Gerrard, Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School



 The issue of divestment from fossil fuels is becoming an increasingly pressing concern for university endowment boards, socially responsible investors and the fossil fuel industry itself. A number of universities have already taken a decision to divest from coal, while some investors are attempting to divest from all fossil fuels. Others are arguing that active engagement with the fossil fuel industry will be essential to addressing the problem of climate change, and simple divestment represents a purely token action as long as the world economy remains largely dependent on fossil energy.

There has been, as of yet, relatively little discussion of what a safe fossil fuel investment would look like. What does a company that plans to remain engaged in fossil fuel extraction for the foreseeable future need to do to reassure its investors and customers that it is acting responsibly and that its activities are not committing future taxpayers to expensive climate adaptation, mitigation or remediation measures?

There are a number of possibilities. For instance, companies could diversify into non-fossil and/or renewable energy sources; companies could invest in carbon capture and storage; or companies could elect to “go into runoff”, curtailing fossil fuel exploration and simply drawing down existing assets, returning money to shareholders, among other possibilities. But each of these raises a host of additional questions and uncertainties.

The purpose of this panel is to exchange views and ideas from various stakeholders involved in the divestment and engagement discussions, to think critically about their implications, and to explore their potential effectiveness. The aim is to give guidance on a framework for constructive engagement between responsible investors and the fossil fuel industry and allow both investors and the industry to play their part in securing our common future.

More information

You will find more information on this side event on the following link : http://ccsi.columbia.edu/2015/07/09/a-safe-future-for-fossil-fuel-investments-in-a-carbon-constrained-world/