The Rockefeller family — which built much of its empire on oil — is making waves with the announcement that it will be joining the fossil fuel-free divestment movement. Yesterday, the family’s $860 million philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, pledged to start selling off fossil fuel assets and in turn invest in cleaner energy alternatives in its portfolios. The news coincides with the United Nations Climate Change Summit, and the Rockefellers will join 180 other institutions that are participating in the divestment movement to transfer $50 billion into clean energy investments.

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The ironic nature of the Rockefellers’ decision is a huge win for alternative energies, but also a wake up call to the world as to the importance of recognizing the need for energies beyond fossil fuel. The movement started as a grass roots campaign on college campuses, and has since involved world wide institutions and private individuals who are working together to invest in clean fuel alternatives. Aside from the pledged $50 billion in divestments from institutions, individuals (like actor Mark Ruffalo) have planned to divest $1 billion toward the cause as well.

Related: UN Climate Chief Calls for ‘Urgent Transformation’ of Oil and Gas Industry for a Greener Future

At $51 billion combined, the divestment movement may not have a huge impact on mega rich fossil fuel companies, but the message sent will carry their efforts much further. Starting with college kids and trickling up to major players like the Rockefellers has brought the issue to the mainstream, showing its importance and permanence.

+ Rockefeller Brothers Fund

+ Fossil Free

Via NY Times

Images ©Vicky B and ©Marriane Cothern