Bill McKibben Discusses Fossil Fuel Divestment

Environmentalist Bill McKibben was one of the first to sound the alarm about climate change. His message to the public is simple: We have already done lasting damage to the planet, and we need to take urgent action before the situation becomes irretrievable. He joins the program to explain how divestment efforts are affecting the fossil fuel industry.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Is divestment a bigger game-changer than activism on the streets, votes at the ballot box or even corporations — I mean, I know you say they’re not enough yet, corporations, which, you know, as we said to Paul Polman, as he, you know, admits, you know, these are the biggest emitters of, you know, carbon product into the air. So, is divestment bigger or these other things?

BILL MCKIBBEN, ENVIRONMENTALIST: Well, so divestment has become a huge tool. As Paul said, it was outside pressure that begins to get corporations to move. And the most important corporations to move are the handful, that as you pointed out, supply 75 percent or 80 percent of emissions. So, that’s where the pressure is coming. I look at it, Christiane, as if there’s two levers to pull here. One is the political lever. In the U.S., 2020 is a big year. Today is a big day. You know, so there’s lots of people working hard to change our political system. But we also have to pull this financial lever. Because Washington doesn’t really rule the world anymore, but Wall Street kind of does. And if you could begin to get the big banks and asset managers to change how they value and how they deal with the fossil fuel industry, you would be a long way there. And it’s starting. This campaign is only about six months old. People can go to stopthemoneypipeline,com to learn more about it. But if it’s first six months, it’s persuaded some of the biggest insurance companies, some of the biggest banks, to begin at least to change their policies. The biggest success came six weeks ago when one of our chief targets, BlackRock —


MCKIBBEN: — the biggest asset manager on earth, their CEO put out a fairly remarkable letter saying that everything in finance is going to have to change because of climate change. Now, we don’t know whether he means it yet. We’re going to have to, you know, monitor hard to see if they’re actually taking steps to match their rhetoric. But man, it’s a good example of what happens.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And we’re following this, because —

MCKIBBEN: And people begin to push hard.

About This Episode EXPAND

In this climate special, former Unilever CEO Paul Polman joins Christiane to discuss the responsibility of businesses to protect the planet. Plus, environmentalist Bill McKibben assesses the urgency of the climate crisis and Walter Isaacson interviews Robert Bullard, the father of environmental justice.