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University Fossil Fuel Divestment

We have at most twelve years to make the drastic changes needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. So concluded the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Special Report, “Global Warming of 1.5°C.” The IPCC had prepared its report, also known as SR15, for the international conference in Katowice, Poland in December to implement the Paris agreement to stop climate change.

Every day there are new reports of the effects of climate change, from melting polar ice caps to wildfires. Climate change is a major factor in dieoffs of wildlife. Even in the short time since the IPCC report, CO2 emissions have continued to rise, largely due to national policies in the United States, Brazil, and other major nations dependent on fossil fuels.

At the slow pace of national politics, we face at least two years of worsening CO2 emissions under the Trump-Pence Administration, leaving us with perhaps six years, rather than the twelve years the IPCC estimated, to seriously address climate change. The Earth cannot wait that long.

What can we do? Build a movement to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy technology.

The idea of divestment for social change comes from the successful movement to end apartheid in South Africa. One of the leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, the Rev. Desmond Tutu, explained the connection in an interview with the Guardian:

Just as we argued in the 1980s that those who conducted business with apartheid South Africa were aiding and abetting an immoral system, we can say that nobody should profit from the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

We can encourage more of our universities and municipalities, foundations, corporations, individuals and cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil fuel industry. To divest, and invest, instead, in renewable energy. To move their money out of the problem and into the solutions.

As citizens and consumers, we can push state and local governments, universities, and corporations to divest. Individuals can limit their own consumption, but petitions, public pledges, etc. are needed to have the necessary impact on the global problem of climate change.

We therefore demand of government leaders and corporate CEOs:

Divest from fossil fuels.


Reinvest in clean energy technology.

Energy corporations claim that they cannot afford the loss of their so-called “stranded assets.” But corporations are continually shedding unprofitable businesses. For the second straight year, the stock performance of the energy sector was at or near the bottom of the S&P 500, and in 2018, it was solidly in last place. Corporate divestment for business purposes is so common, that some climate activists have adopted a different term, “disinvestment,” to describe the campaign to divest from fossil fuels for the good of society and the planet.

As the Trump-Pence Administration moves to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, states are declaring their support. Michigan and New Mexico have just joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, bringing the membership to twenty states, representing 47% of U.S. population and over half of national GDP, and one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. In becoming an Alliance member, states commit to:

· Implement policies that advance the goals of the Paris Agreement, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025

· Track and report progress to the global community in appropriate settings, including when the world convenes to take stock of the Paris Agreement, and

· Accelerate new and existing policies to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy deployment at the state and federal level.

Students are realizing successes in getting their colleges to support the divestment campaign. On January 26, 2019 Middlebury College announced a 10-year commitment to reduce energy consumption, phase out direct fossil fuel investments in the endowment, and to create new educational programs and opportunities that will help to empower future generations of environmental leaders. Middlebury may be a small college, but its action can have a major impact. Its endowment is valued at more than $1 billion, one of the largest among higher education institutions supporting the divestment campaign.

Join the campaign to stop climate change. Sign the petition to government leaders, corporate CEOs, and college trustees, to demand:

Divest from fossil fuels.


Reinvest in clean energy technology.

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