What do you do when a whole city asks you to divest from coal? That’s exactly the conundrum currently faced by Microsoft founder, Bill Gates – who was recently asked by Seattle residents and environmental groups to get rid of about $1.4 billion in coal investments currently held by the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. According to the Guardian, the campaign is being spearheaded by former Seattle mayor, Michael McGinn and local NGO 350Seattle – with backing from 24 other local organizations. The campaign launched last Wednesday with a demonstration outside the foundation’s local visitor’s centre – and the campaigners are planning to show up there every day until the foundation meets their demands.

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A letter delivered to the foundation on behalf of all the organizations outlines their case: “We believe that a charitable foundation with the global reach of the Gates Foundation has a moral obligation to divest completely from fossil fuels…. Given the size and prestige of the Gates Foundation, it is clear that your divestment will send a strong message to the world’s political leaders that it is socially and morally unacceptable to profit from industries that cause global warming and threaten the biodiversity and global security of the planet.”

Related: Bill Gates invests $2 billion in renewable energy

According to the Guardian, Gates has previously rejected worldwide calls for divestment, stating that doing so is futile. Instead, he plans to invest $2 billion in renewable energy in an effort to “bend the curve” in the fight against climate change.

But McGinn says that approach is fundamentally flawed: “You can’t drive by hitting the brake and accelerator at the same time,” he told the Guardian. “We are at a point where we have to pick a pathway and the path of investing in renewables is one we have to fully commit to. But we can’t simultaneously commit to that path while continuing to facilitate the production of fossil fuels.”

Via the Guardian

Video via ChangeStream Media, image by Kjetil Ree, Wikimedia Commons