Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation divests entire holding in BP

Melinda and Bill Gates - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009. Credit: World Economic Forum

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sold off its entire multi-million dollar holding in oil giant BP, in a move welcomed by fossil fuel divestment campaigners.

The foundation, which is the world’s largest charitable foundation and funder of medical research, sold its $187m stake in BP according to recent regulatory filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtained by The Guardian.

The sell-off occurred between September and December 2015, according to the filings, amid a bad year for BP. The oil giant posted its largest ever annual loss, losing $6.5 billion in 2015.

In an interview with US magazine the Atlantic last year, Bill Gates called the selling off of coal, oil and gas stocks a “false solution” to climate change, but the known investments of his foundation in major fossil fuel companies has fallen by 85% since 2014. Mr Gates said:

“If you think divestment alone is a solution, I worry you’re taking whatever desire people have to solve this problem and kind of using up their idealism and energy on something that won’t emit less carbon—because only a few people in society are the owners of the equity of coal or oil companies.”

The Microsoft founder also criticised the global movement that has seen pension funds, universities, churches and local governments worth $2.6tn commit to pulling their investments out of coal, oil and gas companies.

This latest move from the Gates Foundation is not entirely surprising, the foundation has previously sold its entire $824m holding in ExxonMobil.

The Gates Foundation’s divestment comes on the heels of controversy in the fossil fuel industry.  BP posted a record $6.5bn annual loss in February of this year and ExxonMobil is under investigation by the New York state attorney general, for allegedly stifling concerns about the financial risks of climate change from their own scientists, The New York times reports.

Environmental activists, who have been urging the Foundation to divest in fossil fuels and set a global precedent, are claiming a win with the news.

Gates Divest, a campaign to encourage the Gates Foundation to completely divest from the fossil fuel industry, celebrated the move.

“We are thrilled that the Gates foundation continues to divest from fossil fuel stocks, but it’s time to divest the rest,” Alec Connon, a Gates Divest organiser, told Inhabitat.

“Investing in oil companies is completely inconsistent with the Gates foundation mission to ensure that everybody has the chance to live a healthy, productive life.”