On December 12, the second anniversary of the Paris agreement, the 350 Japan team concluded the “Let’s Divest” campaign – to encourage individuals and organisations in Japan to move their money from fossil and nuclear banks to “earth-friendly banks” that do not invest in fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

It all started in September when the team delivered over 1,000 petition signatures from account holders to Japan’s seven largest banks calling on them to disclose their exposure to fossil fuels and nuclear, declare support for the 1.5-2 degree climate goal and divest from fossil fuels and nuclear in line with the science. Six of the seven banks provided a response. However, all of these banks were unwilling to commit to policies in line with Paris.  

So the 350 Japan team decided to escalate the pressure with the “Let’s Divest” campaign starting on November 6, the first day of the UN climate negotiations.

With less than a month to launch, we set a goal of 100 personal and 5 organizational divestments (100+5) by December 12 – the 2nd anniversary of the Paris Agreement.

With the support of our core volunteer team and new interns, we setup a new campaign website letsdivest.jp to collect personal divestment commitments and testimonies from supporters (including the CEO of Patagonia Japan). Through distributed organizing, volunteers led a variety of events each week, including quiz nights, vegan potluck parties and film screenings to spread the campaign.

We also rolled out a video game-themed promotional video – Divestment – Choose Your Future!

It all culminated in an action on December 11 – “Let’s Divest!” Day – coinciding with Climate Finance Day and Macron’s One Planet Summit.

Several supporters closed their active accounts with the big three banks on the day (Mizuho bank, Mitsubishi UFJ, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation) and more than 20 volunteers gathered in the heart of Tokyo’s financial district to demand that the big banks align their investment policies with the Paris Agreement.

We announced our final divestment numbers at a press conference at the Ministry of Environment Press Club on December 12.119 individuals and 7 organizations divested their accounts, adding up to roughly 4 million USD divested from nuclear and fossil fuel banks. (This is the first announcement of its kind in Japan!)

A prominent lawyer working to suspend the restart of nuclear power plants in Japan joined our conference and expressed his optimism that if the divestment movement grows in Japan, holding unsustainable investments in nuclear and fossil fuel energy will come to represent a “big reputational risk” for the banks.

Our divestment action was also featured in a primetime evening TV news program by NHK, Japan’s national broadcast corporation – another national first, introducing divestment to around 2−3 million viewers!

Our work isn’t quite over yet. We have meetings planned with 3 banks in the coming week to see how far we have been able to move the barometer on the big banks’ consideration of investment policies in line with Paris. However in breaking news, Japan’s big three banks signed on as supporting climate risk disclosure as recommended by the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures… so it appears the conversation is moving internally.   

Building on our base of divestment commitments, the team’s goal for the new year will be to make a serious tilt at stopping Japanese bank finance for new coal projects. We will be sure to keep you posted. Meanwhile, you can check out photos from the Let’s Divest bank action here: http://bit.ly/2o0MjpP

Divest on!
350 Japan Team