- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Leonardo DiCaprio is joining a campaign to use investment decisions to fight global warming: He’s planning to shed his own investments in fossil fuels, an activist group said Tuesday.

The star of “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Blood Diamond” joined members of the Divest-Invest Coalition as it announced his plans and highlighted growth in such pledges during the past year. Advocates say their effort to put pocketbook and social pressure on traditional energy producers is gaining momentum; industry groups say the campaign is misguided and its impact negligible.

Students began pressing various colleges in 2011 to drop their fossil fuel holdings and increase their stake in renewable energy companies. Now, foundations, pension funds, insurers, state and local governments and others worth a total of $2.6 trillion have pledged to reduce or eliminate their fossil fuel investments, the coalition said in a report released Tuesday. The total is 50 times larger than it was last year, when activists set a goal of tripling it before the United Nations climate negotiations planned in Paris in November and December.

“Clearly, our movement is growing faster than expected,” said May Boeve, the executive director of 350.org, an anti-global-warming group. The coalition says over 430 institutions and 2,000 individuals have signed on, compared to about 180 institutions and 650 people a year ago.

Still, it’s unclear how that growth translates into dollars divested. Campaign organizers estimate fossil fuel holdings are 3 to 8 percent of institutions’ portfolios, but they don’t have an exact total of what’s being dropped. In some cases, institutions have sold only some fossil fuel investments while keeping others.

DiCaprio is divesting his own and his foundation’s fossil fuel holdings, said Ellen Dorsey, a coalition leader and the executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, an environmental grantmaker. The actor didn’t speak at the event.

Some energy companies have taken note of the divestment push. Power plant owner NRG’s CEO told The New York Times he was mindful of the campus campaigns when NRG announced plans last fall to cut its carbon emissions.

But other energy industry players are pushing back.

When much of the world relies on fossil fuels for energy, activists are “peddling a false choice between improving our environment and growing our economy and creating well-paying jobs,” and it’s wiser to focus on technology to curb emissions, American Petroleum Institute spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel said. The institute is the oil and gas industry’s top lobbying arm.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents thousands of oil and gas producers, says divestment is costly for institutions while making little difference to the targeted companies.

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