50 signatures reached
To: Barbara Snyder, President of Case Western Reserve University, and The Members of the Case Western Reserve University Board of Trustees
Petition to Divest Case Western Reserve University From Fossil Fuels
We the undersigned demand that President Barbara Snyder and the Case Western Reserve University Board of Trustees take immediate, transparent, and publicly verifiable action to completely divest from and halt all future investments of Case Western Reserve University's endowment in fossil fuels.
Why is this important?
Humanity is at a precipice. In October 2018, the United Nations International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) stipulated that humanity would have to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.The science is clear that institutions must play a role in the mass effort to avoid climate catastrophe.
The 2017 Carbon Major Report found that just 100 fossil fuel companies have been responsible for 71% of global emissions since 1988. If we are to avoid the least catastrophic side effects of increased global temperature, which include droughts, floods, and famines increasing in both frequency and severity the longer we fail to act, “the world would have to leave two-thirds of its fossil fuel reserves unexploited” As a result, it is downright abhorrent to continue harboring any connection to an industry that bears significant responsibility for the crisis that disproportionately harms low-income, minority and indigenous communities, in addition to threatening the future of each and every human being. Specifically in regards to the Cleveland community, our region has been detrimentally impacted by heightened droughts and floods—the results of which reverberate through agriculture and infrastructure development, contributing to widespread, systematic, environmental racism.
This destruction perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry through attacks on science and climate crimes against humanity have been far from accidental. The Climate Deception Dossiers, published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, contains over 300 pages worth of documents and internal memos from fossil fuel companies that display a deep understanding of potential implications as far back as the 1980s. Even more unforgivable is the evidence of “forged letters to Congress, secret funding of a supposedly independent scientist, the creation of fake grassroots organizations, multiple efforts to deliberately manufacture uncertainty about climate science and more.” CWRU cannot credibly claim to be an institution that promotes scientific inquiry and academic integrity, nor can it continue to assert that the university holds self-stated core values such as “academic freedom and responsibility,” “ethical behavior” and an “emphasis on sustainability” while continuing to invest in publicly traded fossil fuel companies. By continuing to lend a “social license to operate," to this industry, it is only honest to say that CWRU is complicit in climate injustice.
There is also undeniable evidence that fossil fuels have been and will continue to be an increasingly imprudent investment. As shown in a report written by American University’s Student Government Financial Research Office and led to the university’s subsequent divestment several months ago, “indices without fossil fuel investments perform better than those with such investments...fossil free investments have practically identical, often lesser, volatility as compared to their traditional counterparts, speaking to their sustainability.” The report continues with the evidence that divestment does not impair an investment portfolio, stating that “portfolios that divest from fossil fuels and utilities and invest in clean energy perform better than those with fossil fuels and utilities.” Finally, the report explains how investing in fossil fuels is, contrary to popular belief, an extraordinarily high-risk endeavor. These risks arise from a number of sources: global policy changes aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; evolving technology which has the potential to undermine the success of fossil fuels, exemplified by the prediction that “LED lighting will reduce electricity consumption for lighting by 40 percent between 2013 and 2030”; and the potential for fossil fuels to become “stranded assets” through various pressures which will render them liabilities. All these factors contribute to the estimate that average annual returns may fall up to 74% and 63% in the coal and oil subsectors, respectively. Fossil fuel divestment is not only a decision which is morally right, but one which is also realistic and financially sound.
On April 22, American University announced that although they had “had no direct investments in fossil fuel funds for several years,” they [had] divested all of its public fossil fuel investments from its endowment. In AU’s case, much of the fossil fuel exposure was “concentrated entirely in commingled funds.” However, in what this university might call “Thinking Beyond the Possible™ ”, over just several months, AU’s Board of Trustees eliminated the remaining $12.9 million of fossil fuel exposure within the public endowment portfolio by selling “$350 million in commingled and index funds, with the proceeds reinvested in investments that do not include any fossil fuel holdings.” Institutions such as American University, the University of Hawaii, and Pratt Institute have set the gold standard, showing that complete divestment is realistic with both financially and socially responsible leadership.
In the end, there is only one correct response: action. We demand that the President and Board of Trustees take a stand for a just, livable future and take immediate action to completely divest from, and commit to halting all future investments of the university endowment in the fossil fuel industry through a transparent and publicly verifiable process. Otherwise, they will have undeniably staked their side in history, playing a role in the continuation of irreversible harm to the Cleveland community, and humanity as a whole.