Fossil Fuel Divestment: Colleges & Universities

Colleges and universities are leading the way. Students have always been key to movements of conscience, and this fight is no different.

Institutions of higher education are charged with preparing their students for lifetimes of work and service. But if those institutions are invested in fossil fuel companies, then students’ educations are being subsidized by investments that guarantee they won't have much of a planet on which to make use of their degrees.

Colleges and universities rush to launch greening initiatives, sustainability offices, and environmental curricula, but it makes no sense to green the campus and not the portfolio. Fossil fuel divestment is a reasonable next step -- and it’s the right thing to do.

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Campaigns (379)

  • Phillips Academy: Go Fossil Free!
    In the 1980s, students occupied campuses and took the fight against South African apartheid into their own hands, contributing to the liberation of 23 million people. Now, a new challenge has emerged in which students can play a critical role. Climate change, largely driven by the burning of fossil fuels, threatens the food we eat, the homes we build, and the future we hope for. This daunting problem is solvable, but only if we all come together against it. Unfortunately, fossil fuel companies are less interested in solutions and more in their pocketbooks. Through investing in such companies, Andover profits from the destruction of the planet. Not only morally wrong, this also goes against our school’s fundamental values. Thus, we call upon Phillips Academy to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies. Some have tried to frame climate change as a scientific abstraction—a theory that needs more evidence or, even worse, the brainchild of rogue scientists. Yet, the scientific consensus on climate change is clear. According to a 2007 Report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal." It has been attributed to “human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases” that “come mainly from the burning of fossil fuels,” according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. 97-98% of American climate scientists support these assertions and have called for action. In the U.S., the real effects of climate change are emerging. Consider Hurricane Sandy: More than 100 Americans dead, millions without power, over $60 billion in damage, the entire Northeast at a standstill. Or take the unrelenting American drought, which has cut into crop yields and foreshadowed a 21st century Dust Bowl. The science is clear that such events will only become more extreme and frequent on a warming planet. Around the world, climate change is even more unjust. In fact, African nations that emit the least carbon will be hit the hardest by its consequences. For small island nations such as Seychelles or Fiji, their very existence is threatened by the ocean’s rise. From Miami to Mumbai, the dangers of climate change loom larger by the day. Fortunately, there are steps toward a solution. For example, stricter regulations on mining and drilling would keep more carbon underground while protecting public health. A price on carbon would promote green innovations and sustainable living. A recent Yale survey found that 88% of Americans want government action on climate change. In the face of popular will and a moral imperative, one group has stood in the way: the fossil fuel industry. As the only industry that dumps its waste for free, fossil fuel companies run up huge profits at the expense of our future. To protect their business model, they spread doubt of established science by funding misleading ads and widely-discredited climate skeptics. As one of Washington’s biggest lobby groups, they spend millions securing themselves tax breaks and subsidies, crushing renewable energy with an unfair and unnecessary advantage. Thanks to Big Oil’s money, many politicians of a certain political party drag their heels on climate change’s urgency and even reject the hard science behind it. In the face of this political stranglehold, there is one thing concerned institutions like Andover can do: divest. That is, to stop investing their endowments in these companies. Environmentalist Bill McKibben and 350.org have turned this call to action into a vibrant national movement of over 200 college campuses. Unity and Hampshire Colleges have already made the decision to divest, along with the city of Seattle. Other college groups continue to make progress in what will be a long but crucial fight. Now is our chance to join it. For Andover, this would not be unprecedented. In 1987, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to divest from companies operating in apartheid South Africa. In 2008, the Academy divested from companies funding the Sudanese government because of atrocities in Darfur. The Trustees then adopted an ethical investment framework that calls for divestment from companies causing grave social injury. If climate change and its associated consequences do not meet this standard, then what does? As an institution known for "non sibi," Andover can send the message that fossil fuel companies must stop thinking purely of short term profit by endangering current and future life on Earth. Like the civil rights activists who made the country aware of segregation’s evils, we can bring fossil fuel companies’ grave social injury to the national consciousness. If a wave of institutions divest from fossil fuels, these companies will lose their social license and, consequently, their powerful grip on the political process. This opens the door for real government action to achieve climate justice. This past fall, we listened to Mr. Palfrey in his investiture speech ask
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  • Keene State College Go Fossil Free!
    Climate change is accelerating. We are witnessing the increasing impacts of a warming planet more and more consistently; in this last year alone our country experienced record-breaking heat, droughts, and hurricanes, which impacted hundreds of thousands of people and cost our country hundreds of billions of dollars. Hurricane Sandy alone caused $50 billion in damages. Experts agree that global warming caused by humans burning fossil fuels will continue to accelerate and intensify these tragic climate disasters. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming; we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet for several thousand years.
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    Created by Taylor Asher
  • Arizona State University: Go Fossil Free!
    Climate change is accelerating. We are witnessing the increasing impacts of a warming planet more and more consistently; in this last year alone our country experienced record-breaking heat, droughts, and hurricanes, which impacted hundreds of thousands of people and cost our country hundreds of billions of dollars. Hurricane Sandy alone caused $50bn in damages. Experts agree that global warming caused by humans burning fossil fuels will continue to accelerate and intensify these tragic climate disasters. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming; we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet for several thousand years. As public pressure to confront climate change builds, we call on Arizona State University to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel companies, and to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds. We believe such action on behalf of Arizona State University will not only be a sound decision for our institution's financial portfolio, but also for the wellbeing of its current and future graduating classes, who deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future not defined by climate chaos.
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    Created by Janel Jordy
  • Tufts University: Go Fossil Free!
    Climate change is accelerating. We are witnessing the increasing impacts of a warming planet more and more consistently; in this last year alone our country experienced record-breaking heat, droughts, and hurricanes, which impacted hundreds of thousands of people and cost our country hundreds of billions of dollars. Hurricane Sandy alone caused $50bn in damages. Experts agree that global warming caused by humans burning fossil fuels will continue to accelerate and intensify these tragic climate disasters. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming; we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet for several thousand years. As public pressure to confront climate change builds, we call on Tufts to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel companies, and to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds. We believe such action on behalf of Tufts will not only be a sound decision for our institution's financial portfolio, but also for the wellbeing of its current and future graduating classes, who deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future not defined by climate chaos.
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    Created by Dan Jubelirer
  • SUNY at Buffalo: Go Fossil Free!
    Climate change is accelerating. We are witnessing the increasing impacts of a warming planet more and more consistently; in this last year alone our country experienced record-breaking heat, droughts, and hurricanes, which impacted hundreds of thousands of people and cost our country hundreds of billions of dollars. Hurricane Sandy alone caused $50bn in damages. Experts agree that global warming caused by humans burning fossil fuels will continue to accelerate and intensify these tragic climate disasters. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming; we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet for several thousand years. As public pressure to confront climate change builds, we call on SUNY at Buffalo to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel companies, and to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds. We believe such action on behalf of SUNY at Buffalo] will not only be a sound decision for our institution’s financial portfolio, but also for the wellbeing of its current and future graduating classes, who deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future not defined by climate chaos.
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    Created by Ron Zito
  • Villanova University: Go Fossil Free!
    Climate change is accelerating. Future generations will view the decisions made in the early part of the 21st century by governments, top policymakers, business leaders, experts, advocates, and concerned citizens as pivotal ones for the fate of human civilization and inter-generational justice. We are witnessing the increasing impacts of a warming planet. In this last year alone our country experienced record-breaking heat, droughts, and hurricanes, which impacted hundreds of thousands of people and cost our country hundreds of billions of dollars. Hurricane Sandy alone caused $50bn in damages. Furthermore, climate change disproportionately impacts poor and vulnerable populations and their home countries--those with the least amount of culpability for the reality of climate change. Experts agree that global warming caused by humans burning fossil fuels will continue to accelerate and intensify these tragic climate disasters. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming--we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet for several thousand years. As public pressure to confront climate change builds, we call on Villanova University to show bold leadership and fight for inter-generational justice. We believe that this would be a sound decision for the university's financial portfolio and for the well-being of its current and future graduating classes.
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    Created by Ivan Noisette
  • Prescott College: Going Fossil Free!
    The Divestment Initiative at Prescott College was first developed by recent graduate Kara Kukovich, who prepared a report on the ethical, financial and environmental reasons for fossil fuel divestment at Prescott College. The action gained widespread support from students, faculty, staff and Executives at the college, and was approved by all major internal governance committees within a few short months. All we need to do now is continue with the plan...
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    Created by Vincent Pawlowski Picture
  • University of Maine System: Go Fossil Free!
    Climate change is accelerating. We are witnessing the increasing impacts of a warming planet; our country is experiencing record-breaking heat, droughts, and flooding, which impacts hundreds of thousands of people and costs our country hundreds of billions of dollars. The temperature of the northeastern region is increasing steadily and the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than any other ocean on the planet, as well as rapidly acidifying. This is already having major impacts on the environment and economy of Maine. Experts agree that global warming caused by humans burning fossil fuels will continue to accelerate and intensify these tragic climate disasters. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming; we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet for several thousand years. As public pressure to confront climate change builds, we call on the University of Maine System to fully divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. We believe such action on behalf of the University of Maine System will not only be a sound decision for our institution’s financial portfolio, but also for the wellbeing of its current and future students, who deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future not defined by climate chaos.
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    Created by laurie stearns
  • University of Wisconsin - Green Bay: Go Fossil Free!
    Climate change is accelerating. We are witnessing the increasing impacts of a warming planet more and more consistently; in this last year alone our country experienced record-breaking heat, droughts, and hurricanes, which impacted hundreds of thousands of people and cost our country hundreds of billions of dollars. Hurricane Sandy alone caused $50bn in damages. Experts agree that global warming caused by humans burning fossil fuels will continue to accelerate and intensify these tragic climate disasters. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming; we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet for several thousand years. As public pressure to confront climate change builds, we call on University of Wisconsin - Green Bay to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel companies, and to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds. We believe such action on behalf of University of Wisconsin - Green Bay will not only be a sound decision for our institution’s financial portfolio, but also for the wellbeing of its current and future graduating classes, who deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future not defined by climate chaos.
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    Created by Anna Gribova
  • Williams College: Go Fossil Free!
    Across the country, led by students and prominent environmentalists, including Bill McKibben, the fossil fuel divestment movement is growing. Three nearby colleges have already committed to divestment: Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts; Unity College in Maine; and Sterling College in Vermont. Students are running strong fossil fuel divestment campaigns at more than 200 colleges and universities, including Amherst College, Middlebury College, Swarthmore College, Harvard University, Brown University, and Tufts University. At Amherst, just as at Williams, students, faculty, and alumni are calling for no new direct investments in coal. The Amherst Board of Trustees has expressed willingness to pursue coal divestment but would like to work in conjunction with another school. As our closest peers and rivals join the movement, it is time for Williams to follow suit or risk falling behind. On November 16th, 2012, over 130 students and faculty turned out to help launch the student-organized coal divestment campaign. Numerous alumni have expressed their support for the campaign and are becoming more involved. As members of the Williams faculty, we join them to call for an investment policy that precludes direct investment in coal, a policy that is consistent with the Board’s assertion that “being itself privileged by its history and circumstances, Williams understands its own responsibility to contribute by thought and example to the world of higher education.” Williams is already a leader to its peers by providing an exemplary liberal arts education, and with this use of its institutional power, the College will affirm its commitment to leadership.
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    Created by Vera Cecelski