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UN Endorses ‘Global Divestment Day’ But Won’t Divest It’s Pension Fund From Fossil Fuels

The United Nations has endorsed “Global Divestment Day” — a two-day event put on by environmentalists to encourage companies, schools and organizations to divest themselves from fossil fuels to fight global warming.

The fossil fuel divestment movement is an effort by environmental groups to get schools, pension funds and businesses to dump holdings in coal, gas and oil companies to fight global warming. Environmentalists say fossil fuel investments will be risky in the future because governments will have to restrict energy use to fight global warming, meaning fossil fuels could become stranded assets.

But this may be a case of “do as I say, not as I do” because the U.N. itself is not considering divesting pension fund fossil fuels holdings, despite openly urging others to ditch investments in coal, natural gas and oil companies.

“At the moment, we are not considering divesting from fossil fuels,” a U.N. spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We believe in maintaining holdings in energy stocks so that we can stay at the table and have a voice in encouraging these companies to be responsible citizens.”

The U.N.’s refusal to divest its own pension fund runs counter to its public stance on divesting from fossil fuels. Last year, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged companies to reduce or ditch fossil fuel investments.

“I have been urging companies like pension funds or insurance companies to reduce their investments in coal and a fossil-fuel based economy to move to renewable sources of energy,” Ki-moon said.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported last year that 80 percent of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves need to stay in the ground in order to prevent the planet from warming above 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The IPCC even argued that fossil fuels should be mostly phased out by 2050 and be completely done away with by 2100.

“Science has spoken,” Ki-moon said on the report’s release. “There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

The U.N. spokeswoman told TheDCNF that as of Dec. 31, 2014 the energy sector represented 7.22 percent of the U.N.’s $52 billion pension fund’s global equity exposure. The Fund’s benchmark MSCI All Country World Index had an energy weighting of 7.97 percent during that time.

The UN.s pension fund investment guidelines do not prohibit investing in fossil fuels, but do forbid the fund from investing in tobacco and weapons companies.

Environmentalists like former Vice President Al Gore have said fossil fuels will become stranded assets and that investors should look towards green technology, like solar panels and electric cars, for money-making opportunities. Coincidentally (well probably not), Gore heads up a green investment firm.

“Divestment serves as a key tool in moving the world beyond fossil fuels and towards renewable energy,” said Payal Parekh with 350.org, the environmental group leading the divestment movement. “The divestment movement is modeling what governments need to be doing: withdrawing funds from the problem and investing in solution. That’s the best way to ensure a brighter future for both people and planet.”

Despite high hopes, the divestment movement has floundered and failed to attract many schools or pension funds. Stanford University and the Rockefeller Foundation are notable, but rare, institutions that opted to ditch fossil fuel investments.

Other major universities like Harvard and Yale have rejected calls for divestment, saying it would hinder abilities to provide scholarships and opportunities for students.

But some environmentalists have known the U.N. has not lived up to its public image. A petition on GoFossilFree.org demands the U.N. divest its pension fund from fossil fuels. The petition, however, only has 653 signatures. Petitioners say they will deliver the petition by hand to Ban Ki-moon this weekend.

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