The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has come under significant pressure from environmental campaigners to divest from fossil fuels in recent years. So far, the organization has resisted these calls, and Bill Gates himself has called blanket divestment a "false solution" to the problem of climate change.
Now The Guardian newspaper—which itself has called on the foundation to divest—is reporting that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made a significant move toward lessening its exposure to fossil fuels and the so-called carbon bubble: It has sold off its entire $187 million stake in BP, following a the oil company reporting a record $6.5 billion loss earlier this year. (The move comes after the Foundation reportedly also offloaded its $824m holding in ExxonMobil too.)
Does this mean the Foundation is coming around to full-scale divestment? Probably not. Bill Gates has long been skeptical of those who say a renewable energy revolution is imminent, arguing that we are going to need a "clean energy miracle" before we can solve climate change or quit fossil fuels entirely.
That said, the move does suggest that markets are shifting and the oil industry is not the sure-fire bet it once was. In many ways, this may be even more encouraging for divestment advocates. When the clean energy skeptics are jumping ship for purely fiscal reasons, you know that business-as-usual is no longer an option.
The question is, though, who's going to keep buying all these oil stocks? And at what price?