Sustainable Trade, Investment and Finance
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Sustainable Trade, Investment and Finance

Toward Responsible and Coherent Regulatory Frameworks

Edited by Clair Gammage and Tonia Novitz

Sustainable development remains a high priority in international politics, as governments seek new methods of managing the consumption of resources while maintaining national economic growth. This timely book explores how the contours and facets of sustainability shape international laws and regulations that govern trade, investment and finance.'
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Chapter 12: Fossil fuels divestment: a strategy for sustainability?

Benjamin J. Richardson

Abstract

Is fossil fuels divestment likely to achieve its aims? This chapter evaluates the rationales of divestment for their capacity to give the global divestment campaign influence in the marketplace. In seeking to end fossil fuel industries in order to mitigate climate change, the campaign deploys a variety of arguments to win support and wield influence in the market, namely: the legality and indeed emerging duty to divest; investors’ moral responsibility to avoid complicity in the fossil fuel economy; their moral responsibility to use their leverage against climate polluters; and the power of financial sanctions to create a business case for abandoning fossil fuels. Each of these asserted rationales has some limitations that may diminish the market influence of the divestment movement, although in combination they may be effective. Yet, the movement does not engage sufficiently with the systemic qualities of finance capitalism that must also be reckoned with in order to address broader pressures for environmentally unsustainable development. The divestment movement may achieve greater influence by seeking also to reform government regulation of the financial economy.

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