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To: Board of Trustees and Chancellor Joseph I. Castro

DIVEST the CSU from Fossil Fuels

“If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage.” We call upon the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees and Chancellor-Select Joseph I. Castro to commit to divesting the CSU of all direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds.

Why is this important?

We believe this decision will benefit our financial portfolio AND directly impact the wellbeing of its current and future graduating classes, who deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future not defined by climate crisis.

The CSU will not be lonely: the support for fossil fuel divestment internationally has been staggering. The divestment movement is a rising wave encompassing hundreds of institutions: banks, philanthropies, religious organizations, corporations, pension funds, cities, and states to the tune of over $14 trillion divested so far. Norway’s Government Pension Fund — the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund – has dropped $13 billion in fossil fuel investments. BlackRock, the world’s largest fund manager, has dumped coal. The country of Ireland is withdrawing every last euro invested in fossil fuels. The list goes on and on.

The CSU will join 190+ universities, including over half of the universities in the UK, Brown, Cornell, George Washington, Boston University, the universities of Hawaii, Illinois, Vermont, and many others, not to mention our other flagship university system, the University of California. Notably, the UCs cited financial risk, not climate change, as sufficient rationale for divesting. Fossil fuels “posed a long-term risk to generating strong returns for UC’s diversified portfolios.” The UC’s portfolio is already reaping financial rewards.

Even before unimaginable 2020 crashes, fossil fuels have been proving to be risky investments. Since 2015, over 200 U.S. oil and gas producers have filed for bankruptcy, revealing debt racking up to hundreds of billions of dollars and sending plummeting returns to the portfolios of their investors. Where is the risk-return? Investing in an industry marked by such volatility and short-sightedness is fiscally irresponsible, and the CSU can do better.

After all, this is today. What about tomorrow? In the U.S. alone, over 150 cities and 8 states (including California) have committed to eventually sourcing 100% of the city’s electricity from renewable sources. No fossil fuels. Nada. While the fossil fuel industry dances to the drumbeat of bankruptcy, renewable energy production and cost-effectiveness rises year after year, as well as their investment values. In most countries, renewable energy is cheaper than coal. Clean energy bought by corporations jumped 44% in 2019 (Forbes). In the stock market, the S&P Clean Energy Index is outperforming its dirtier counterpart, the S&P Natural Resources Index at a ratio of 6:1, returning more than 66% over 3 years vs. a measly 11% (Forbes). The renewable revolution has been called the “largest wealth-generating opportunity of this generation.” How can we let this opportunity fall to the wayside?

Yet, despite the enormous progress renewables have made over the past decade, investments in clean energy are still falling short of the level needed to put the world’s energy system on a sustainable path. Our action is needed. This is where the CSU can lead our nation as the U.S.’s largest university system and send a clear message to the fossil fuel industry and to investors worldwide: we prioritize our future and protect our portfolio.

We are at a tipping point. Climate change poses an “immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights.” We can choose to say “no!” to a future marked by collapsing food systems, extreme heat, destructive wildfires, devastating storms, dwindling water resources, sweeping extinctions, increased insect outbreaks, and sea level rise measured in feet.

But the longer we wait, the more drastic of reductions are needed to mitigate climate change. Our future can’t afford business as usual, and neither can our portfolios.

We can put our money where our mouth is. We can leave a legacy our children will be proud of. What we cannot risk is placing bets on a plummeting industry, especially as the CSU faces severe budget constraints as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To this end, for the good of our students and our nation, and to preserve the quality of life for this and future generations worldwide, we ask that the CSU:

1) Immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies (coal, tar sands, oil, and natural gas.)
2) Divest from the fossil fuel industry and shift funds to ethical investments within 5 years.
3) Provide accountability. We ask that a quarterly list of the funds and companies that each CSU campus invests in be available to students. If quarterly investment reports cannot be disclosed, we seek to reach an agreement with each college to provide a suitable accountability mechanism allowing public tracking of the progress of these divestment goals.

We are united by our vision for a better future. A college degree is an investment with benefits that lasts a lifetime. If only our universities’ investments were doing the same.

Join the movement by following us on Instagram at divestthecsu (website soon to come) and by reaching out to [email protected]. Join our Slack:
If you would like to support organizing/campaigning expenses such as printing or website hosting, your donations are welcome. Paypal: or Venmo: @lisaswartz. All donations not utilized by the campaign will be donated to As You Sow, a nonprofit creating environmental and social change at the corporate level through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies.

California, USA

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2020-12-11 20:27:28 -0500

100 signatures reached

2020-12-07 22:37:43 -0500

50 signatures reached

2020-12-07 12:51:47 -0500

25 signatures reached

2020-12-07 10:21:17 -0500

10 signatures reached