How can we move away from fossil fuels? That is what Rick Bosman wrote his dissertation on. The researcher is one of the initiators behind ABP fossil-free (a campaign by pension fund ABP to stop investing in fossil companies) and he knows better than anyone what you can do as a country, company or university to break free from the fossil industry. "More money goes to marketing than to renewable energy at Shell," Rick Bosman told at Studio Erasmus.
Helping Shell by litigating against them
On 26 May 2021, Milieudefensie won a court case against Shell. The court ruled that Shell must reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030. Shell will only appeal. From his new job at Milieudefensie, Rick Bosman is involved in the court case as a researcher. According to him, it actually helps Shell: "We are helping Shell to take the right path towards a sustainable economy. I have learned that it takes strong social pressure to get these kinds of parties to go along with the necessary development."
During the Studio Erasmus broadcast, people asked whether cooperating with Shell would then still be acceptable. From the cabinet, for instance, 17 billion euros go to the fossil industry every year. Bosman: "You need cooperation with the fossil industry if they really work on sustainability. If not, the companies are more of a hindrance."
Last year, Shell's profits were 40 billion euros. What are they doing with that? "I know Shell's case very well. They buy back their own shares and pay dividends to shareholders. In addition, more money goes to marketing than to renewable energy. As much as 80% of Shell's investments still go to fossil. They call themselves the driver of the energy transition. But even using all my empathy, I find it very hard to see this," the researcher says.
The great example: ABP fossil-free
Pension fund ABP announced in 2021 that it would no longer invest in oil and gas companies. This is a great milestone that Rick Bosman was one of the instigators of. How do you tackle such a transition?
Bosman: "I started at Drift as a consultant. Drift is the research institute on sustainable transitions at Erasmus University Rotterdam. I advised on how to shape and accelerate the energy transition. At that time, I found out that a lot of money was invested in the fossil industry through my pension fund: 15 billion euros."
"I was really angry. We turned that anger into action with a group of people who felt the same way."
This money actually went towards making our own bright future unlivable, according to Bosman. "That felt very unreal to me. I was really angry. We turned that anger into action with a group of people who felt the same way. After seven years of campaigning, ABP stopped investing in fossil companies. It worked so well because three things came together: a deeply felt urgency, a group of committed people who could use their large network, and a clear story."