Rockefeller family to divest charity from fossil fuels

The Rockefeller family that built a vast fortune on oil planned to announce today that its $860 million philanthropic organisation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, would join the divestment movement that began a couple years ago on college campuses, The New York Times reported.

The announcement would precede the opening of the United Nations climate change summit meeting in New York City on Tuesday, and comes as part of a broader and accelerating initiative.

Recent years had seen 180 institutions - including philanthropies, religious organisations, pension funds and local governments, as also hundreds of wealthy individual investors pledge to sell assets tied to fossil fuel companies from their portfolios and to invest in cleaner alternatives. In all, the groups had pledged to divest assets worth over $50 billion from portfolios, and the individuals over than $1 billion, Arabella Advisors, a firm that consults with philanthropists and investors to use their resources to achieve social goals said.

The people who were selling shares of energy stocks were well aware their actions would likely not have an immediate impact on the companies, given their enormous market capitalisations and cash flow.

However, they still believed they were taking action to align their assets with their environmental principles. Others wanted to shame companies that they believed were contributing to recklessly global warming.

Meanwhile, BBC reported that the move to divest from fossil fuels would align with oil tycoon John D Rockefeller's wishes.

"We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy,'' Heintz said in a statement.

The sons of John D Rockefeller had founded the philanthropic organisation in 1940 and as of 31 July 2014, the fund's investment assets totaled over $860 million.

The Washington Post quoted Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, a great-great-granddaugter of Rockefeller and a trustee of the fund as saying, there was a more imperative to preserve a healthy planet."

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon hopes leaders would be able to make progress on a universal climate agreement that would be signed by all nations at the end of 2015.