Fossil fuel divestment and climate change: Reviewing contested arguments

Sibylle Braungardt, Jeroen van den Bergh*, Tessa Dunlop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

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The strategy of fossil fuel divestment has attracted considerable attention in recent years, particularly in the press and social media. Spearheaded as a movement based on ethical principles, divestment has been suggested to play a potential role in shaping public opinion and policymaking on climate change. The growing size of the movement has prompted debate about the extent of its impact on fossil fuel companies and climate change mitigation efforts. This article investigates the potential effectiveness of the divestment movement according to the end goal of climate campaigners – to bring about a complete break from fossil fuels. We collect and qualify the key arguments as found mainly in the informal debate, and to a lesser extent in the academic literature. This will help readers to make an informed judgement that can contribute to a constructive debate about the effectiveness of divestment. We organize the literature into arguments for and against divestment, and explain how these relate to each other. In addition, we derive suggestions for further research on divestment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-200
Number of pages10
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Early online date28 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


Van den Bergh received financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, through the “María de Maeztu” program for Units of Excellence ( MDM-2015-0552 ), and from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme through an ERC Advanced Grant (grant agreement n° 741087 ).

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme741087
Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y UniversidadesMDM-2015-0552
European Research Council


    • Carbon bubble
    • Divestment
    • Fossil-free
    • Green finance
    • Stranded carbon


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