It is our right, and duty, to disobey when we are unwillingly forced to participate in climate destruction. That’s why our colleagues in Sweden are challenging financial institutions by stopping payments to the state pension fund, because of the role it plays in fuelling climate change.

It’s civil disobedience 101, shaped in the twenty-first century. And you can jump on board.

Greenpeace Sweden Stops Payment of Climate-Damaging Pension Fees © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

From left to right: Frode Pleym, Head of Greenpeace Sweden; Parul Sharma, Human Rights Lawyer; Pia Wickman, Greenpeace Nordic Head of Finance; Em Petersson, Campaigner © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

How does it work?

In Sweden, as elsewhere, everyone contributes to the state pension fund through taxes. These funds then invest in oil, coal and gas (with the exception of some countries like Ireland). This means that with every hour you work, like it or not, you are contributing to climate change in more ways that you realise.

In an act of classic civil disobedience, Greenpeace Sweden has declared that from now on, they refuse to participate in this. They will refrain from paying a part of the employer pension contribution that corresponds to the environmentally damaging activity caused by fossil fuel investments.

Instead they will put the money in a safe and closed account to be returned when it will no longer be used to further harm this planet. They will continue to do this until the state introduces a policy that is in line with the Paris agreement, Swedish climate policy and national environment goals.

What’s the problem?

Brown coal power plants operated by Swedish company, Vattenfall © Paul Langrock / Greenpeace

Brown coal power plants operated by Swedish company, Vattenfall © Paul Langrock / Greenpeace

Investment in fossil fuels causes double damage. Primarily it accelerates climate change and lock us into the fossil era, but it also withholds necessary investments in the solutions that are desperately needed.

According to a recent UN report, the world needs $90 trillion in the next 15 years to achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. The message is clear: we need to increase exponentially the investment flows into solutions like renewable energy and energy efficiency, and avoid financing fossil fuel projects.

If we don’t change the current financial sector, it will run the world into the ground. We need to challenge access to funding for whole polluting sectors, as well as stopping fossil fuel projects. We need to disrupt the entire financial system to make it stop being one of the main drivers of unsustainability on our planet.

Reaching climate targets requires that the vast majority of fossil fuels are kept in the ground, meaning that the assets of the companies extracting them will be stranded. But fossil fuel companies like to pretend that this carbon bubble doesn’t exist. If investors like pension funds don’t realise this soon and withdraw from this risky business we might soon see an economic meltdown similar to the one in 2008.

What can we do?

'Global Divestment Day' in Stockholm © Greenpeace / Denis Sinyakov

‘Global Divestment Day’ in Stockholm © Greenpeace / Denis Sinyakov

The good news is that the movement to divest from fossil fuels is spreading fast. Students are getting their universities to divest, municipalities and major institutions like the World Bank and the gigantic Norwegian oil fund are stopping funding to fossil fuel projects.

But we’re not moving fast enough. Climate change is threatening the very existence of life on this planet as we know it. That isn’t an overstatement. And that’s why we need to scale up the drive for divestment, and stop investing in the pollution of our planet. You can help the campaign by signing the petition to get the Swedish Pension Funds out of fossil fuels.