Reorienting investments and divesting from fossil fuel assets

How can the investment community be reoriented away from investments in fossil fuels and towards investment in low carbon options, especially energy efficiency and energy demand measures? This project is researching the challenges of financing a transition to a low-carbon and low-energy demand economy, and the implications for the financial sector, government and civil society.

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Start date: 1 November, 2016 - End date: 1 May, 2018

The first strand of the research will focus on the drivers and barriers to large-scale investment in energy efficiency and how energy demand can be reduced (referred to as demand-side measures). This will include analysing innovative investment models and the role of policy and regulation.

The second strand focuses on the fossil fuel divestment movement, a bottom-up campaign which encourages individuals, institutions and cities to divest from oil, coal and gas, and has been one of the fastest-growing divestment movements in history. The project will consider what impact this social movement has had, and what role it might play in a transition to a low carbon economy. The project will consider the drivers and barriers to divesting from fossil fuels. It will examine both the role of the divestment movement, and the more mainstream discourse of ‘stranded assets’ (assets, such as oil and gas reserves, which might never be extracted due to changes in climate change policy). It will also explore the less developed ‘reinvestment’ side of the divestment movement.

The third part of the research will synthesise these two strands of work in a systemic analysis of the interactions between policy changes, financing options and social movements in a low carbon transition, focussing on investment in energy efficiency and demand side measures.

The project is addressing the following three research questions:

1)      How could investment flows be reoriented towards large-scale energy efficiency improvement and energy demand reduction?

2)      What is the role of the Divestment Movement in influencing policy, business and finance actors in relation to diverting investment away from fossil fuels and towards low carbon investment?

3)      What can we learn from the first two analyses about investment in energy efficiency and energy demand as part of a transition to a low-carbon economy?