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Off-campus Fossil Free Campaigns
State of Vermont
United Church of Christ
Maine Public Employees Retirement System
There are many ways to be involved with the fossil fuel divestment effort off-campus. Most places of worship, unions, cities, states and large workplaces have endowments or pension funds that are invested in fossil fuels. Just as students on campus push their administrators, presidents and boards of trustees to divest, we can push leaders and money managers at these other institutions, too.
200 publicly-traded companies hold the vast majority of the world’s proven coal, oil and gas reserves. Those are the companies we’re asking our institutions to divest from. Our demands to these companies are simple, because they reflect the stark truth of climate science:
- They need to immediately stop exploring for new hydrocarbons.
- They need to stop lobbying in Washington and state capitols across the country to preserve their special breaks.
- Most importantly, they need to pledge to keep 80% of their current reserves underground forever.
Whether you’re a seasoned activist or a first-time organizer, here is a simple guide to get you started running a divestment campaign. Think about remixing these steps or adding a few of your own – you’ll quickly find out what works best in your community. If you want more information, check out our resources page. If you’re ready to start running your own campaign right away, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 1: Building a Team
All good campaigns start with a good team. Get together with your friends, neighbors and coworkers, and remember to think outside the box about who to invite: a diversity of experiences and opinions often makes a group stronger. Is there a local 350 group in your area? Search for one or start a new group here.
Step 2: Planning your Campaign
Find out whether your Church, Synagogue, Mosque or workplace has a pension fund; check with your Mayor’s office or State Comptroller to find out how much they have invested, and what they’re invested in. Find who runs the show–do you think he/she will get on board with the effort? Are there any sympathetic voices or influencers who could support you? Who in town or in your congregation could could help out? Who’s going to stand in the way? Then plan out your campaign to build the necessary pressure to win.
Step 3: Building Support
You don’t need 51% of the town on board to win a divestment campaign, but public support counts. Run a petition to show that there is support for divestment (it’s also a great way to build up your group). Host events, debates, and film to educate your peers about the issue. Plan some creative actions that make divestment the cool thing happening in your community. And try and meet with every group in town to get them to sign on to your campaign.
Step 4: Turning up the Heat
Once you’ve built up some support, it’s time to turn up the heat. Deliver your petition to the key person, host a creative demonstration outside the building, publish an oped in the local newspaper pushing for divestment. Now is a great time to bring in all the people who signed your petition to help out: ask them to write letters to the money manager, publish ads in local magazines or newsletters, and support your efforts.
Step 5: Pressuring the Decisionmakers
Make sure to request a meeting with the money manger or administrator in charge of the pension fund to ask him/her to commit to our demand: a freeze on new fossil fuel investments and a drawdown over current holdings over the next five years. As the meeting approaches, keep up the pressure with creative actions and other tactics. Host a big demonstrations outside of the meeting if you think the decisionmaker need the extra nudge (the likely scenario).
Step 6: Escalation
If the money manager or administrator turns you down, it’s time to escalate the campaign. Escalation can take a number of different forms: maybe you want to get congregants or employees to withhold more contributions to the fund until the manager commits to divestment, or maybe it’s time to occupy their office building. Escalating your campaign can be a serious decision, as well as very exciting. Remember, you’ll have the support of a movement across the country as you take action: no one will be fighting this fight alone.