To: President David Ellis and the Board of Trustees
Lewis & Clark College: Go Fossil Free!
Because it is unconscionable to pay for our education with investments that will contribute heavily to climate change, we call on Lewis & Clark College to freeze any new investments in the most carbon intensive and damaging of fossil fuel industries (coal, tar sands, oil, and natural gas), and to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include public equities and corporate bonds in these industries. In addition, we ask that a quarterly list of the funds and companies that Lewis & Clark’s endowment managers (1) invest in be available to students. If quarterly investment reports cannot be disclosed, we want to reach an agreement with the college to provide a suitable accountability mechanism. This increased transparency will allow students and others to track the progress of these divestment goals.
Why is this important?
Climate scientists agree that the record breaking weather events are being caused by increases in global temperatures (2). These temperature increases have largely been the result of carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. 60-80% of the existing coal, oil, and gas reserves should be left unburned (3) in order to limit global warming to less than 2°C, as signed in the Paris Climate Agreement (4). Anything above this threshold drastically increases the risks of more climate disasters.
We therefore call on Lewis & Clark College to immediately freeze any new investments in the most carbon intensive fossil fuel industries, especially those on the Carbon Underground 200’s list (5) of biggest oil and gas companies, and to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include public equities and corporate bonds in these industries. With increased transparency and in collaboration with students, Lewis & Clark College should revise the Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) investment policy in order to meet these divestment goals. We believe such action on behalf of Lewis & Clark College will not only be a moral decision for the well-being of the planet, but also a sound decision for our institution's financial portfolio. The recent fluctuations in fossil fuel prices make these investments unreliable. The stocks themselves are also being overvalued; the fossil fuel industry is considering their aforementioned unburnable fossil fuels as assets, when in fact they are “stranded assets” under the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Divestment from fossil fuels will have adverse financial effects on the industry and will encourage a larger cultural shift in which these investments themselves carry a powerful stigma. As more and more people continue to view coal, oil and gas negatively, through movements like divestment, this will pressure these fossil fuel companies to transition to clean energy. As of December 2016, 688 institutions worldwide have divested over five trillion dollars from fossil fuels (6). Lewis & Clark College, a pioneer of sustainability, should participate in this significant global movement.