Seattle leaders urge Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuels

Civic leaders and activists continue to urge the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuel investments. (Photo by Goorish Wibneh.)
Civic leaders and activists continue to urge the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuel investments. (Photo by Goorish Wibneh.)

While welcoming the announcement of a clean energy initiative by Bill Gates and other high profile investors, several Seattle civic leaders continued the call for the Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuel.

Bruce Herbert, CEO of Newground Social Investment, lauded the clean energy investments and the two-thirds divestment the Gates Foundation Trust Fund from fossil fuels, announced earlier this year. However, the foundation needs to drop investments in fossil fuels completely, Herbert said at a press conference Monday at First United Methodist Church in Seattle.

Those actions only engage one side of the invest-divest equation,” Herbert said. “They leave untapped the potential leverage and influence of the equation’s other side.”

Herbert was joined Monday at the event by other civic leaders, including Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, Got Green? Executive Director Jill Mangaliman and former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

The Seattle press conference was followed by a march and the delivery of a petition to the front desk of the Gates Foundation near Seattle Center.

The events were at the same time as Gates’ participation at the Paris Climate Change Conference, where he spoke about a multi-billion initiative of private investment to develop clean energy technology. Along with Gates, the initiative’s other high-profile investors from the tech sector include Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

There has been an ongoing local effort to get Gates to drop fossil fuels from the trust fund investments that benefit the foundation named after him and his wife, which focuses on global health, poverty and education. Local kayaktivists have been protesting in the waters outside the Gates’ Medina home.

Some speakers at Monday’s Seattle event expressed appreciation for the Gates’ leadership in those areas of social justice, but encouraged them to go further in clean energy.

McGinn told reporters and others in the audience that fossil fuel energy is not as cost effective as alternative energy without the investments and public subsidies. McGinn added that it’s important for large foundations to make a statement by removing fossil fuel investments from their portfolios.

“Divestment is a powerful signal,” McGinn said.

Bruce Herbert, CEO of Newgrounds, speaks about the importance of divesting from fossil fuels as former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn listens. (Photo by Goorish Wibneh,)
Bruce Herbert, CEO of Newground Social Investment, speaks about the importance of divesting from fossil fuels as former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and other civic leaders wait to speak. (Photo by Goorish Wibneh,)

Editor’s note: because of an editing error, this post mistakenly identified Seattle Councilmember Nick Licata as a former councilmember. His term ends at the end of the year. 

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