Not A Penny More: Divest, Desponsor & Defund

This guide will help your group get started in campaigning to cut off the social license and financing for the fossil fuel industry. It includes information and links to the three key components: Divest, Desponsor & Defund fossil fuels.

This guide should be read in conjunction with the overall Fossil Free Campaign Guide.


The Problem

The Ask

How we will win - the big picture

Getting Started

1. Divest From Fossil Fuels

2. Defund New Fossil Fuels Projects

3. Desponsor Museums and Cultural Organisations

Key Resources

The Problem

Fossil fuel companies are the wealthiest and most powerful companies on the planet, and they use their money to block every attempt to stop climate change. By convincing our institutions to divest, desponsor and defund fossil fuels, we can turn their money against them.

The Ask

Local institutions must immediately freeze new investments in fossil fuel companies and divest from direct ownership within a prudent timeframe.

Public and private local institutions must stop loaning money to, and stop using, banks that loan money to new fossil fuel projects like major oil or gas pipelines. Now is the time to defund new fossil fuel projects.

Local institutions must cut sponsorship and funding ties with fossil fuel companies - our schools, museums, and events will no longer bolster the reputation of this deadly industry. As long as fossil fuel companies are funding climate denial, anti-climate policies, and climate change we refuse their sponsorship. 

How we will win - the big picture

By shifting public support away from the fossil fuel industry we can break the hold that powerful, annacountable corporations have on our economy and our governments to make way for a fast and fair transition to 100% renewable energy.

To do this we must divest from fossil fuel stocks; defund fossil fuel projects; and ensure our banks don’t lend anymore money to build dangerous pipelines and coal plants. We simply cannot afford to spend a single penny more on future fossil fuels. A fast and fair transition away from fossil fuels means a fast and fair redistribution of capital.

How the movement is winning thus far...

  • Public and private institutions totalling USD 6 trillion in total assets have divested from fossil fuels - seriously threatening the industry’s ability to survive.
  • Norway’s sovereign wealth fund - the largest pool of investment capital in the world - is on track to divest from oil and gas.
  • One of the world’s biggest financial services companies, Axa, has committed to stop insuring major fossil fuel projects.
  • By 2019 the World Bank will stop funding all new oil and gas exploration.
  • New York City - a global financial capital - has pledged to divest from fossil fuels.

Read more about how divestment is moving across the globe

Getting Started

Step one: Find out if there is a divest, defund, or sponsorship campaign already going in your town or city - search here and if there is an existing campaign, join it.

Step two: If there is no campaign near you then start one! This guide will get you off the ground. Hint: the first step is to build your team - creating social change takes many good people with different experiences.

Step three: Build your strategy and deepen your knowledge base. You need to ask questions like:

Most campaign groups are orienting strategies to target local government and public pools of money - any pool of money with a large constituency attached to it has political power. School endowments or funds are often the target of the student base; pension systems for public employees; and faith based institutions for the congregation or faith-based.

Money talks: what does it say about your city? Public funds, like city budgets and pension systems are making statements about the values and policy of that city. We need to make sure that our public investments match our public sentiment and priorities.  

Combining your demand for divestment, defunding and desponsoring with demands for 100% renewable energy for all, and a ban on fossil fuel projects, can help build a strong, positive case for your campaign. Having local institutions commit to these three demands is the outcome that the Fossil Free campaign aims to achieve.

  1. Divest From Fossil Fuels

Divestment holds the fossil fuel industry responsible for its culpability to the climate crisis - by shifting public support and our money away from the fossil fuel industry we can break the industry’s hold on our economy and governments, while making way for a just transition to renewable energy for all.

Since 2012, more than 800 institutions and 58,000 individuals have divested from fossil fuels, resulting in more than $6 trillion of investment funds being declared fossil fuel free.

 There are extensive resources for divestment campaigning.

> Click here to read more and for our divestment campaign guide <

  1. Defund New Fossil Fuels Projects

Why Defund Fossil Fuels?

Financing any new fossil fuel project is unacceptable - it endangers our planet and society. For this reason local campaigners are demanding their cities and towns stop using banks that are backing fossil fuel development. Now is the time for banks to end lines of credit and project-level loans to fossil fuel infrastructure like new drill rigs and pipelines.

Our cities and towns need to take control of their funds to ensure not one penny more is directly or indirectly funding climate change. We want institutional leaders, like our elected officials, to make sure public money isn’t building new fossil fuel infrastructure. That includes cutting ties with the banks that are funding the climate crisis. We call on our institutional leaders to commit to banking fossil free.

Here is an example of an ordinance passed by the city of Seattle, United States, following organising by the Indigenous lead movement of Defund DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) and 350 Seattle to push the city to cut ties with Wells Fargo.

Other examples include:

Key Questions To Get You Started

If the answer to any of these questions stand out, that might be an indicator to further explore for your campaign.

Where can you find this kind of information?  We suggest you start by asking your local government finance departments. Unfortunately there is no easy look-up for these questions - you will have to contact your local governments or institution in question and ask around.

Defunding sounds complicated - do I have to be an expert to start a campaign?

No. These types of campaigns are successful when a groundswell of public opinion confronts decision makers - stick to moral arguments, the experts will debate the particulars. You are an expert in what’s best for you so don’t let decision-makers lock you out of conversations about your pensions or public funds.

  1. Desponsor Museums and Cultural Organisations

Why Desponsor Museums and Cultural Organisations?

We can shift public support away from the fossil fuel industry by breaking sponsorship ties that fossil fuel companies have with our public institutions. Call on cultural and public institutions, sports teams and major events to cut ties with the industry and reject a public partnership with coal, oil and gas. We don’t want their logos attached to our good name.

We don’t want BP, Exxon, Adani or any other fossil fuel company written on our cultural institutions. These are the companies with business plans that would drive climate change into an uninhabitable world. Let’s push our organisations and institutions to reject these sponsorships and reflect a stronger moral standard.

Historically, breaking the ties of sponsorship have been instrumental in shifting public acceptance of harmful corporations. For example, cultural institutions began dropping tobacco companies as sponsors, which played a major role in the social shift away from public smoking.

Check out these campaign examples for inspiration:

  • Check out the campaign to get BP out of the Arts
  • See the Fossil Free Culture NL, committed to exposing the toxic ties between fossil fuel companies and cultural institutions
  • And of course there’s Libérons le Louvre, a collective pushing The Louvre Museum to break its ties with Total & the fossil fuel industry

Key Resources