President Obama: “Invest! Divest! ”

President Obama gave a big shout-out to the growing fossil fuel divestment campaign in his major climate speech this afternoon, urging Americans to, “Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.”

“President Obama’s shout-out to the fossil fuel divestment movement is a huge endorsement for the students on over 300 campuses across the country who are running this campaign,” said Jamie Henn, Communications Director for 350.org, one of the organizations leading the divestment campaign. “If the U.S. President supports divestment, surely university presidents should do the same. My Twitter feed absolutely lit up with students tweeting the news, people are pumped.”

“I was watching the speech with fellow divestment activists and when the President said ‘divest’ our jaws dropped. We just looked at each other in shock and then excitement,” said Daniela Lapidous, an organizer with Barnard Columbia Divest and the Responsible Endowments Coalition. “If the President can recognize the facts about climate change and student power, we can make college presidents recognize them, too.”

The President’s assertion that there is “no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth” is supported by a series of recent reports showing that divesting from the top 200 fossil fuel companies carries little financial risk and that, in fact, moving investments into clean energy and other climate solutions can increase returns.

A study commissioned by the Associated Press concluded that, “An endowment of $1 billion that excluded fossil fuel companies would have grown to $2.26 billion over the past 10 years, but an endowment that included investments in fossil fuel companies would have grown to $2.14 billion. That extra $119 million could pay for 850 four-year scholarships, assuming tuition of $35,000 per year.” (1)

Environmentalist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben helped launch the fossil fuel divestment campaign last November with a 21-city tour across the nation urging college students and activists to take up the cause. Since then, the campaign has spread to over 300 colleges and universities and more than 100 cities, states and religious institutions.

More than 15 city councils and mayors have committed to pursue fossil fuel divestment, including the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who voted unanimously in April to urge the city’s retirement board to divest over $583 million from the fossil fuel industry. Six colleges and universities have also agreed to divest, from San Francisco State University to Unity College in Maine. A growing number of religious institutions are also taking up the cause: last week, Unitarian Universalists passed a resolution to explore divestment at their yearly General Assembly.

The Go Fossil Free divestment campaign is supported by 350.org, As You Sow, Energy Action Coalition, Responsible Endowments Coalition, and the Sierra Student Coalition.

###

1. AP Article: http://news.yahoo.com/college-fossil-fuel-divestment-movement-builds-173849305.html

2. For more information about the fossil fuel divestment campaign, please visit: gofossilfree.org