Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio on Tuesday joined more than 400 institutions and 2,000 individuals who have promised to divest from fossil fuels, as new research showed they hold total assets of US$2.6 trillion.
The report by investment experts reveals the movement to take money out of fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas has grown 50-fold in one year.
At the same time, more capital is flowing into renewable energy and other solutions to climate change problems, it said.
"Climate change is severely impacting the health of our planet and all of its inhabitants," said DiCaprio, announcing his promise to divest on behalf of himself and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which supports conservation projects around the world.
"We must transition to a clean energy economy that does not rely on fossil fuels, the main driver of this global problem," the celebrity environmentalist added in a statement.
Local governments and investors from 43 countries have committed to stop supporting fossil fuels, including municipalities, pension funds, medical associations and churches, the coalition backing the movement said.
The report, launched in New York by investment consultancy Arabella Advisors, did not specify how much of the US$2.6 trillion in overall assets represented by those that have pledged to divest was invested in fossil fuels.
Thomas Van Dyck, managing director of SRI Wealth Management Group, said the research showed a growing number of investors wanted to reduce their carbon risk and switch their money into clean-growth industries.
"That underscores what I see every day as a financial advisor – that the demand for fossil-free investment products is increasing," he said in a statement.
In the past year, activists have targeted the shareholders and creditors of fossil fuel companies and their corporate and social partners, while ramping up pressure on universities and religious institutions to stop investing in those firms.
The tactics are getting results – particularly in the United States, Britain and some Scandinavian countries, campaigners say.
"If these numbers tell us anything, it's that the divestment movement is catching fire," said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, an online climate action group.
She said the expansion of the movement should send a clear message to world leaders ahead of UN talks in Paris, where they are due to agree on a new global deal to tackle climate change in December.
"It's time for them to follow suit, and divest our governments from fossil fuel companies too," Boeve added.
Divestment strategies differ across organizations, the coalition noted. Some are withdrawing their money from all fossil fuel companies, while others are beginning with firms involved in coal or tar sands.
A papal pronouncement issued by Pope Francis in June demanding swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin has influenced religious institutions, experts say.
"The pace of fossil fuel divestment within faith communities worldwide, combined with the growing commitment to investing in clean energy, particularly for the world's poor, show that the world's spiritual and moral leaders grasp the urgency of the climate crisis and are ready to act," said Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, a US-based interfaith coalition for the environment.