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To: Head-Royce Board of Trustees

Divest the Head-Royce Endowment From Fossil Fuels

Divest the Head-Royce Endowment From Fossil Fuels

We request that the investment committee immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies and divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds.

Why is this important?

Dear Members of the Head-Royce Board of Trustees:

The United Nations and the international scientific community have agreed that a rise in global temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius would lead to catastrophic runaway climate change. That rise would be triggered by the emission of approximately 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide. According to the Carbon Tracker Initiative, the proven reserves of the world’s fossil fuel companies total 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide. At present, the fossil fuel industry plans to extract, sell, and burn those reserves in their entirety.

This creates a future that is terrifying and unacceptable to us as students and citizens of the Head-Royce community. Fossil fuel companies absolutely must change their behavior if we are to hold out hope for long, healthy, and safe lives for ourselves and our children. Since our political system has been ineffective in taking a stand against the fossil fuel industry, we have turned to our academic institution.

As you all know, parts of the Head-Royce endowment are invested in the fossil fuel industry. We find this incompatible with the school’s mission. The first goal of the current strategic plan is “to strengthen our initiatives to become a sustainable, model green school in all areas of program, operations, finance and facilities.” If we aspire to be a model green school in any area, but particularly in the realm of finance, Head-Royce must divest from the fossil fuel industry. The school also has a moral imperative to divest. If it is wrong to destroy the climate, it is also wrong to profit from that destruction.

Divestment is a prudent financial choice. According to a Citigroup report released in March, global oil demand could peak within seven years. Bernstein & Co. assert that coal demand is already falling in every country except China, and demand there will begin to fall within four years. With the recent increase in concerns about a carbon bubble, or the overvaluation of fossil fuel companies due to the erroneous belief that all of their reserves are burnable, we feel that the endowment would be better invested elsewhere.

The benefits of divestment could also reach far beyond its environmental impact. Divestment would generate positive press for the school, potentially eliciting better relations with the local community, increased alumni and outside donations, and an even better reputation amongst potential applicants and their families.

Furthermore, divesting from fossil fuels is the most important action Head-Royce can currently take to fight climate change. According to a University of Oxford study published this October, "the outcome of the stigmatisation process, which the fossil fuel divestment campaign has now triggered, poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies" (Ansar et al. 2013). The dozens of institutions and municipalities that have already pledged to divest, including the cities of San Francisco and Seattle, have begun the process of removing the social license of the fossil fuel industry and drawn attention to the carbon bubble. A pledge from you in the coming year would make Head-Royce the first secondary school in the country to divest from fossil fuels, constituting another important step in the movement and inspiring our peer institutions to follow suit.

You have a fiduciary responsibility to the members of our community, an obligation that we know you do not take lightly. That obligation entails making the best choices for the future of Head-Royce’s students. Addressing climate change is the most important action you can take to safeguard our futures. We therefore request that the investment committee immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies, even if that means moving the endowment into different mutual funds, and divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds.


Dylan Carlson and Thomas Peterson
Upper School Student Body Co-Presidents

Oakland, CA, United States

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL

Reasons for signing

  • This is a forward-thinking and practicable initiative, completely in keeping with H-R's mission and commitments.
  • As we're going, we'll extract and burn oil to the last gallon and then spend the next thousand years trying to put it back in the ground.
  • I'm going to post my reason on Facebook. It's "too long" for the website.


2013-12-03 20:48:44 -0500

For those seeking more information about divestment, here are some resources:

Bill McKibben's famous Rolling Stone piece, explaining the numbers we cite at the beginning of the letter:

An FAQ from Go Fossil Free:

The Oxford Study we mention in the letter:

A piece on the financial case for divestment by a former SEC Commissioner:

2013-12-01 21:10:19 -0500

100 signatures reached

2013-12-01 15:17:03 -0500

Just to clear up any confusion, when you're signing fill in your entire last name. In the comments and in the "last signed by:" section it only provides first name and last initial, but that's just to protect the privacy of the signees. Your full name is still collected on the PDF we will send to the board.

2013-11-30 23:15:16 -0500

50 signatures reached

2013-11-30 21:55:51 -0500

25 signatures reached

2013-11-30 21:33:15 -0500

10 signatures reached