As the U.N. Climate Change Conference begins in Paris this week, the city of Kansas City, MO joins a select group of U.S. cities in sending a powerful message about divesting from fossil fuels.
On November 19, the KC City Council approved a resolution directing the city to reject future investment in fossil fuel companies and within five years divest all current fossil fuel assets in the KCMO Employees’ Retirement System and the Firefighter’s Pension System. Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, 4th District at-large, and Mayor Sly James co-introduced the resolution. It passed 11-1.
“The City Council’s near-unanimous endorsement of divestment sends a strong message that they understand the seriousness of the climate crisis and know we can’t continue with business-as-usual,” said John Fish Kurmann, lead coordinator of 350KC, the local arm of the 350.org international grassroots climate action movement. “It also sends a strong message to the negotiators about to meet at the United Nations climate conference in Paris that we need them to reach an agreement that will turn off fossil fuels and turn on clean energy just as quickly as possible.”
The divestment effort began with 350KC asking the KCMO Environmental Management Commission to support a divestment resolution before the Paris talks opened on November 30.
“The climate crisis is a serious threat to current and future generations,” states the resolution. “Numerous intergovernmental and scientific organizations have found that climate change is already causing costly disruption of human and natural systems throughout the world, including the melting of Arctic ice, the ocean’s rise in acidity, flooding and drought.”
Climatologists warn that any warming above two-degrees Celsius would be unsafe, and humans should limit carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.
“By divesting, we tell the world that we know the fossil fuel industry is like no other industry on Earth,” said Fish Kurmann. “All it has to do to wreck the world is to carry out its business model. Scientists are telling us that at least 80 percent of proven fossil fuel reserves must never be burned if we’re to keep the globe from warming no more than 2 degrees Celsius.”
The resolution identifies a “fossil fuel company” as one of 200 publicly traded companies with the largest coal, oil and gas reserves as measured by the potential carbon dioxide emissions that would be emitted if the reserves were extracted and burned. This does not include local utility companies. The Carbon Underground 200 report states that fossil fuel companies have fossil fuel reserves that would release an estimated five times the amount of carbon dioxide that can be released without exceeding the two-degree Celsius limit.
Watch the Paris talks live
The U.S. State Department is providing a public outreach initiative to allow audiences from around the world to watch the U.S. actions in Paris. It can be live streamed through www.state.gov.