A team of students representing divestment campaigns from universities across the country that have received an official ‘NO’ to their ask for fossil fuel divestment teamed up last week to respond. These campuses include, but are not limited to, Brown, Cornell, Vassar, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, Harvard, Boston College, Colorado College, Pomona, Roosevelt University, Haverford, CUNY, and Middlebury. For months students have been strategizing, and this past week their hard work and collaboration culminated in a number of creative actions. These student leaders carried the #rejectiondenied message right to their Presidents and delivered this letter.
These student have passion. “Of course we’re not giving up,” said Jimmy O’Dea, a postdoctoral scholar researching clean energy technology and active with Cornell’s divestment campaign. “The no’s campuses have gotten are just responses, not answers or end-alls. This isn’t an ‘ok, if you say so’ kind of movement. This is a ‘spread the word and stand up for what’s right’ kind of movement.’”
We are already seeing our success as our movement grows to a full-blown international effort. From articles in The Guardian talking about how quickly our movement has grown to Alberta Oil Magazine pointing out that if ‘the fossil fuel industry ignores us at their own peril’ to the NY Times articles that divulges that major oil companies are already preparing to pay for carbon.
These students are continuing to build power on their campus and work collectively to lead our movement to the next level. In the words of a great social justice movement leader and divestment support, Nelson Mendela, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”
We’ll keep fighting to be on the right side of history.
We have been told by our presidents and Boards of Trustees that our universities are not divesting from fossil fuels. Their response, however, must not be mistaken for an answer.
Their continued support of the fossil fuel industry is not an answer to loss of life and loss of ways of life caused by the climate crisis. Nor is it an answer to undrinkable water, polluted air, and contaminated soil. And it is certainly not an answer to fulfilling universities’ mission of leaving the world a better place.
We’re asking for our universities to take a hard look at themselves. We’re asking for our finances to be aligned with our mission. We’re asking for transformative change.
We know it’s not easy for our institutions to accept what they will see in the mirror. But now is not the time for preserving pride and egos. It’s time for our universities to be leaders, not complicit allies of the fossil fuel industry.
Our schools are proud of the curiosity, innovation, and dynamic nature of our academic departments. Why do our investment offices get to be so stuck in their ways? The vision to respond to a changing world is what makes universities such fantastic institutions.
Many of us expected a no from our presidents and boards, recognizing that most campaigns won’t get a yes with their first ask.
They say that divestment will hurt our million and billion dollar endowments.
They say that they’ve done their part by greenwashing our campuses.
What we’re going to do is what King, Gandhi, and others did when existing power structures told them no. We’re going to escalate.
What we’re going to do is bring more students, more staff and faculty, and more alums into the fold. People who meet three times a year to talk about finances do not make up our institutions. Our alums, our faculty and staff, and our students are what make our schools great. We will leverage the collective power of these groups to demand our universities do what is right.
What we’re going to do is whatever it takes.
What we’re not going to do is let the fossil fuel industry run our schools. Our universities are better than that.
What we’re not going to do is wait. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.” While institutions of power stall, people continue to suffer from environmental injustice.
What we’re not going to do is stop. The stakes are too high. No is just a sign to escalate our tactics. No is just the motivator we need to build our power until there’s no option but yes.
And we will not stop until the false choice between investing in immoral assets and our thriving institutions is smashed. We won’t stop until our campuses have divested from fossil fuels.
Will you join us this semester to take our campaigns to the next level — to organize, to escalate, and in the end, to divest?
All our hearts,
To sign on your campus campaign to this call to action, contact Jenny@350.org.
Solidarity Sign ons:
DIVESTnow Stevens (Stevens Institute of Technology)
350 at the University of Virginia
Fossil Free USF
Bowdoin Climate Action
Fossil Free App State
Fossil Free Bates
Fossil Free UCLA
Fossil Free Cal
Earlham College REInvest Campaign
Eau Claire Divest
Fossil Free Minnesota
Divest Carleton – Alumni
Fossil Free Mac
Divest Fort Lewis
Climate Justice Coalition – Carleton College
University of Minnesota Morris Divest
Divest CSB/SJU – St. Joseph, MN
Tufts Students for a Just and Stable Future
Fossil Free Valdosta State
Fossil Free Denison
Fossil Free UW- Maddison
Divestment Committee – Naropa
Fossil Free AU
Luther Seminary Divestment Campaign
Jim Hansen, Jeffrey Sachs and a gaggle of other scientists and economists published a research paper last Tuesday titled, Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature.” Tim Radford, former science editor for the Guardian, wrote a great article about the paper, here, that I highly recommend reading to get the gems and tenor of the research.
The big take away from the paper is that the 2°C warming ceiling set by world governments would have, quote, “disastrous consequences.” Hansen and the gang recommend limiting human-made warming to 1°C – and give quite a compelling argument. Essentially, the paper shows that 1°C warming relative to 1880-1920 keeps global temperature within the Holocene range, the current geological epoch that human life has adapted to; while warming of 2°C could cause “major dislocations for civilization.” The paper’s point is well taken, 1°C warming is safer and we only get one shot at this.
How much can we burn to stay below 1°C? Using a simple carbon model, the scientists calculate that we can burn another 130 GtC (477 Gt CO2). If we assume that emissions are growing at 2% a year we will burn through this in another 11 years. As with any calculation based on the future, there are some assumptions built in. In this case, the authors assume climate-friendly/favourable changes to land use emissions and non-CO2 forcings – meaning that the remaining budget may be even smaller than they calculated. But the message is clear, we need to limit fossil fuels CO2 emissions and fast.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 6, 2013
Contact: Katie McChesney, firstname.lastname@example.org, 614-738-9235
After Initial Rejections, Students Escalate Campaign for Fossil Fuel Divestment
At campuses across the country, activists are turning up the heat on administrations that have refused to dump fossil fuel stocks
CAMBRIDGE, MA — Students across the country are escalating their campaigns for fossil fuel divestment after a number of high profile colleges and universities have rejected measures demanding they sell their stocks.
Schools that have rejected requests for divestment include Harvard University, Cornell University, Middlebury College, Boston College, Vassar College, the City University of New York, Brown University, and Swarthmore College.
Divestment activists at each of these schools and others have come together and written a joint letter “rejecting the divestment rejections” and pledging to take future action. Over the coming week, students around the country will be marching to their president’s home or administrative offices to deliver the letter.
“We can’t continue to pretend that we’re working towards a sustainable campus if we’re still investing in fossil fuels. It’s time for the Vassar community to stand up to what is wrong, and stop turning a blind eye to the injustices we’re funding,” said Graham Stewart, sophomore at Vassar College, where students will host a teach-in on fossil fuel divestment on Friday, followed by a letter delivery to President Catherine Bond Hill.
In the college-rich Boston area, over 150 students from eight area schools are expected to gather on a footbridge crossing the Charles River this Sunday for a joint divestment demonstration. Speakers at the Boston event will include climate activist, and Harvard Divinity School student, Tim DeChristopher, who spent over a year in prison for disrupting an oil auction in Utah.
After the rally, students from Tufts and Boston College will march directly to President Leahy and Father Monaco’s houses to deliver their demands for divestment, while Harvard students will march to President Faust’s office.
Meanwhile, students at other campuses will be turning up the heat as well. On Friday, divestment activists at Middlebury and Swarthmore will be delivering the “rejection” letter to their college President and Board of Trustees. Students from the City University of New York will deliver a holiday care package to Matthew Sapienza, the CUNY administrator who said “no” to divestment, requesting a joint meeting with Cambridge Associates, the university’s money manager.
“After getting a ‘no’ from the College administration, we have shifted our focus on consolidating our own power through a number of ways, including participating in a national divestment network, getting faculty and alumni support, and organizing more educational events for our peers on campus,” said Adrian Leong, a student at Middlebury College. “Our newest venture is collaborating with other student groups on campus to broaden our support base. We will organize until we win, so there’s no getting rid of us from the College administrators’ perspective, ever.”
Next Wednesday, students at Cornell will speak at a faculty meeting where a vote on whether or not to support divestment will take place. Cornell’s President David Skorton said last spring that the university wouldn’t be divesting “in the immediate foreseeable future,” but students hope that a “yes” vote from faculty will increase pressure on the administration.
“Of course we’re not giving up,” said Jimmy O’Dea, a postdoctoral scholar researching clean energy technology and active with Cornell’s divestment campaign. “The no’s campuses have gotten are just responses, not answers or end-alls. This isn’t an ‘ok, if you say so’ kind of movement. This is a ‘spread the word and stand up for what’s right’ kind of movement.’”
Groups like the Responsible Endowments Coalition, the Sierra Student Coalition, the Energy Action Coalition, As You Sow, and 350.org are working closely with students to help provide them training and support for escalating their efforts on campus. From media coaching to workshops on how to organize a successful sit-in, the campaign is training hundreds of new activists in the skills it takes to win campaigns.
“Working with students across the country, I have seen the fossil fuel divestment movement galvanize millennials to confront the increasing role of corporate interests in university decision-making.” said Lauren Ressler, National Organizer with the Responsible Endowments Coalition. “By refusing to take no for an answer, these students are challenging their universities to stand with students and impacted communities instead of the fossil fuel industry.”
Over the last year, the fossil fuel divestment campaign has spread to over 300 colleges and universities and more than 100 cities, states and religious institutions across the United States. The movement is also active in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, where the climate campaign 350.org recently concluded a multi-city tour promoting the effort.
Sara Blazevic, a student from Swarthmore College said, “Communities all over the world are currently feeling the effects of extreme climate change and environmental injustice. This global crisis will only continue growing unless society’s power-holders throw their weight behind solutions to climate change, instead of remaining complicit with environmental destruction.”
Vassar College: Graham Stewart, email@example.com, 860-538-7404
Responsible Endowments Coalition: Lauren Ressler, firstname.lastname@example.org, 917-930-0123
Swarthmore College: Sara Blazevic, email@example.com, 646-249-9545
Middlebury College: Adrian Leong, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cornell University: Jimmy O’Dea, email@example.com, 702-376-0106
Written by Ilaria Bertini; Re-posted from Blue & Green Tomorrow
Professors from the University of California and Cornell University have called on academic institutions to listen to the students who were calling for the divestment of fossil fuel holdings, for the sake of the planet and to be more financially stable in the future.
A group of science and engineering academics from Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, submitted a proposal for the divestment case in relation to some of the world’s largest fossil fuels companies in which the university has invested.
They wrote in the school’s newspaper, “If we speak loudly as representatives of a great university to say that the fossil fuel business as usual must stop, we will be heard.
“Our scientific papers, public presentations, and advice to policymakers have not spoken loudly enough. For better or worse, we need to “put our money where our mouth is.”
They added that the university should commit to becoming carbon neutral by 2035 and stop investing in companies that contribute to increase global temperatures, with unpredictable consequences.
Professors also added, “Although some financial sacrifice in pursuit of our institutional responsibility would be justified, we have conducted the analyses and determined that the proposed actions will not only have a negligible impact on growth of the university’s endowment, they may significantly reduce overall risk in the university’s investment portfolio.”
Meanwhile, Daniel Kammen, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and energy professor at University of California, Berkley, has called on his colleagues to put pressure on the institution and divest from coal, oil and gas companies.
“Today, UC Berkeley and most institutions are financially invested in destroying our future”, Kammen wrote.
“Instead of funding the problem, we should be investing in solutions that at once aid the transition to a low-carbon economy and grow our university’s bottom line.
“There is no lack of financially and environmentally sustainable reinvestment opportunities; as of yet, there is only a lack of leadership.”
The divestment movement – led by groups of students and the environmental organisation 350.org – has brought forward the case for divestment in various American universities including Yale, Harvard and Brown.
We all know that climate change is accelerating far quicker than anyone has predicted, and so far there has been a significant lack of political will to address one of the major contributors of climate change: the fossil fuel industry. To be frank, we simply do not have time to sit around and wait for Congress to pass climate legislation; our oceans are acidifying, sea levels are rising, and severe weather events are increasing in frequency. We cannot wait for another Supertyphoon Haiyan or Superstorm Sandy to spur policy – we must act now. One of the most significant ways we can act is by using our investments to vote for what we want: a clean, safe future for us and the future generations to come.
The fossil fuel divestment movement is paying the way for that future, and NYU Divest is proud to be a part of it. NYU launched its efforts – along with 200 college campuses – last year in a nationwide movement created by Bill McKibben’s “Do the Math” tour that explained the fossil fuel industry has 5 times more oil, coal and gas in known reserves than climate scientists think is safe to burn. The NYU campaign has accomplished quite a bit in a short time period, including meeting with the Vice President and CFO of NYU to discuss divestment last spring. In August, NYU Divest published their second open letter to President Sexton, but never received a response – so we spent the fall building momentum across campus to propel the issue of fossil fuel divestment into Sexton’s lap.
In mid-November, NYU Divest hosted a panel on fossil fuel divestment. Over 60 students and joined us to hear prominent figures in climate change, civil rights, labor, and divestment speak to NYU’s moral obligation as a global leader in higher education to protect students’ futures from the worsening impacts of climate change. The panelists discussed the need for President Sexton to remove university investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies. We were honored to be joined by Reverend Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, Dr. Sean Sweeney, director of Cornell’s Global Labor Institute, Seth Yurdin, city council member of Providence, RI, and Dr. Bill Hewitt, professor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs and author of A Newer World – Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis. “Climate change is real – it’s happening right now, and it’s hitting low-income communities and communities of color hardest,” said Reverend Lennox Yearwood. “Divestment from the fossil fuel industry is a moral imperative in this turbulent time of injustice brought by climate change.” Both panelists and student attendees emphasized the urgency and necessity of divesting from the carbon-rich industry, as climate change poses an imminent threat to a stable future.
Just last week, alumni members of NYU Divest held a call-in day that generated dozens of alumni calls into President Sexton’s office, urging Sexton to divest the University’s endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. Four alumni and a handful of students even braved the rain to kick off the call-in day in Washington Square Park. Alumni gave powerful opening statements about alumni involvement in fossil fuel divestment and placed the first calls into President Sexton’s office while students cheered them on. Michael Leone, a graduate of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, said, “NYU claims to be educating its students to create a just and sustainable future, but its investments in fossil fuels contradict this mission. As an NYU graduate, I would like to be as proud of NYU’s investments as I am of the degree I received. NYU should divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in companies better aligned with its mission.”
As requested by the Vice President and CFO, the campaign is currently working within governmental channels of the University to pass a divestment resolution; members of the group have recently presented to NYU’s Student Senate Council, and will be presenting to the Faculty Senate Council in mid-December, and the University Senate next semester. We’ve had positive interactions with both the student and faculty senate, and are hopeful about our upcoming presentation to the University Senate.
Despite the hard work done by our group and the support of over a thousand students on campus, President Sexton has yet to agree to meet with the group. While NYU advertises its “green-ness”, the President refuses to even acknowledge our growing, campus-wide divestment movement that would provide a rebirth of sorts to NYU’s reputation of being a progressive leader. While other universities are getting answers, President Sexton is simply ignoring two important facts: fossil fuel divestment is completely in line with NYU’s ideals and ethics. Oh, and we’re here to stay.
For more information about NYU Divest, visit: http://www.nyudivest.com/
We at Divest Binghamton are part of a larger organization called “I.D.E.A.S. (Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions) for Binghamton” which recently participated in a double-feature event on our SUNY Binghamton campus: we co-sponsored a talk by Jannette M. Barth, Ph.D. on the economics of hydraulic fracturing and then hosted a screening of “Do the Math”. Both proved powerful ways of getting out the message about the severe risks of continuing with a fossil fuel-based economy, both at a local and global level.
After beginning our divestment movement in January of 2013, Divest Binghamton has reached out to many faith, cultural, political, and other environment students groups on campus as well as activist organizations in our community. Our collaboration has made it possible to efficiently and effectively spread the word about divestment as well as get ideas, insights, and experience from many others. Our first rally, held in April, benefitted from working with local anti-fracking expert and activist Isaac Silberman-Gorn (’11) of Citizen Action, Binghamton. SUNY Binghamton professors and alumni also proved great resources and eager participants in our rally, lending our movement further credibility. Additionally, Vestal Residents for Safe Energy (VeRSE), which is a local organization committed to protecting the community from fracking, signed on as co-sponsors of our November talk and movie showing.
The following post was first published at www.brightnow.org.uk. The Bright Now campaign calls for Churches to disinvest from fossil fuels. It is run by Operation Noah, a UK-based ecumenical Christian charity. What follows is Operation Noah’s response to the Church Investors Group’s statement ‘Climate change and the fossil fuel divestment campaign‘. The Church Investors Group is a group of investors connected with the Churches of Britain and Ireland.
We welcome the opportunity to respond to the public statement issued by the Church Investors Group following the launch of Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign.
One of the three aims of Bright Now is to stimulate a public debate on the ethics of investment in fossil fuels, so we are pleased to contribute to this discussion and would welcome the chance to debate the issue further with all concerned.
The Church Investors Group rightly draws attention to its long experience and on-going work of building a strong investor voice to hasten the transition to a low carbon economy. With regards to investments in fossil fuel companies this approach raises two important questions.
Firstly, is investor influence of this kind likely to persuade companies whose core activities are the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and the development of new fossil fuel assets, to change tack? And secondly, is the desire for a smooth transition to a low carbon economy by 2050 an adequate and appropriate response given current scientific evidence, and a shared desire by Churches to avert an uncontrolled breakdown in the climate system?
It is our view that fossil fuel companies, including Shell and BP, give absolutely no indication that they intend to switch away from their current business models. These are built on the progressive identification, extraction and consumption of fossil fuel assets. Indeed, the current investment strategy of the fossil fuel sector suggests that it is intent on doing the very opposite whatever the consequences. This is despite a vast body of scientific evidence accumulated over the last two decades and published in successive IPCC reports, including the most recent, which set out the devastating consequences of continuing to modify the atmosphere and oceans with pollution from fossil fuels.
The failure by governments, and society at large, to engage adequately with this problem for more than twenty years means that the opportunity to defer the transition to a low carbon economy to some point in the future no longer exists. It is clear that meeting the objectives set out in the Churches’ own policies to prevent catastrophic climate change now requires bold, assertive and immediate action to cut and ultimately eliminate pollution from fossil fuels.
The CIG cautions against over-simplifying climate change as an ethical investment issue. Yet the facts on which our campaign rests are straightforward. We know that changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere, which increase its absorption of heat, are directly related to the concentration of greenhouse gases. We know that the most significant source of these gases is pollution from burning fossil fuels.
We also know that there is a maximum quantity of greenhouse gases that can be emitted from fossil fuels if we are to limit the average rise in global surface temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. Existing, identified reserves of conventional fossil fuels already exceed this global carbon budget by three to five times meaning that the major part of existing reserves will need to be left untouched. Yet, fossil fuel companies continue to invest billions of dollars every year to develop new fossil fuel reserves with the obvious intention of extracting, processing and burning these resources.
So Churches need to consider if it is right and ethical to continue to invest in companies that are clearly ignoring both scientific evidence and international commitments made in Copenhagen in 2009, to limit the average global increase in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius.
Christian denominations in the UK have a long tradition of using their investments and shareholdings to bring pressure to bear on companies to perform better on an array of ethical issues. But Churches have also set a clear precedent by not investing in companies whose raison d’être they regard as unethical or at odds with Christian values.
If, as CIG and some advisory bodies suggest, engagement is an effective means of persuading fossil fuel companies to change the very basis of their businesses, why not pursue a similar approach with companies whose business is tobacco, pornography or gambling?
And given that a policy of engagement, pursued over many years, appears not to have convinced fossil fuel companies to switch out of fossil fuels, why should such a policy now lead to the radical shift in business strategy so urgently required?
Operation Noah believes that a policy of investing in and engaging with fossil fuel companies is no longer appropriate. The time has now come for Churches to disinvest from fossil fuels and to support the development of clean alternatives to fossil fuels through their investment policies.
In so doing, Churches would send a clear signal to governments, other investors and the companies themselves that profiting from the progressive, deliberate and ever more rapid destruction of the atmosphere and oceans, is ethically, morally and financially unacceptable, and that they are actively striving for a more hopeful, positive and viable future.
CIG’s statement ‘Climate change and the fossil fuel divestment campaign’, may be found here (follow the link from Church Investors Group Release Position Statement on Climate Change.).
To read more about Bright Now: towards fossil free Churches visit www.brightnow.org.uk
This blog was written by Nunu Wu on behalf of the Divest Duke team at Duke University in Durham, NC
Divest Duke sat down with Duke University’s President Brodhead last Wednesday to deliver over 1500 student, faculty and alumni-signed petitions collected this fall. As we delivered overwhelming support in petitions from 10% of the student body, we asked President Brodhead his stance on divestment from fossil fuels, and asked for his personal support of Divest Duke’s proposal to divest Duke’s endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies.
Unsurprisingly, that was not the outcome of the meeting. Upon sitting at his desk, President Brodhead launched into an argument against divestment. The President explained that research into technological advances would be the answer to our climate woes, so we need not take additional action. The power of the University, in Brodhead’s words, lies in our “pooled intellect,” in research and education— and that is where he believes we should concentrate our efforts to slow climate change.
This response is not unlike what we as a movement have heard from Presidents Faust and Paxson of Harvard and Brown. And not unlike our peers at Brown and Harvard, Divest Duke would like to publically address President Brodhead’s arguments.
Global climate change is slated to be the defining issue of our generation. We have experienced and witnessed extreme weather inflicting grave social injury from super storms to drought to wildfire to flood, and are inundated with updates about our melting polar ice caps, acidifying oceans, and disappearing shorelines. We need to act now with the tools we have to curb impacts of our planet’s warming – it is time our leaders and leading institutions help implement them. Removing investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies is the place for Duke to start.
There is no one solution for a problem of this magnitude. Solutions will and must come from multiple fronts. These solutions include, among many others: technological advances, lifestyle changes, new climate policy and regulation, major shifts in political will and market structure, and by necessity, strong statements from influential constituencies that make the latter possible. Fossil fuel divestment is one such strategy, and universities are such influential institutions.
Contrary to what Presidents Brodhead, Faust, and Paxson tout, universities have never been vacuums of learning. Instead, they are grounds where learning leads and has led to questioning the status quo and building power for real and difficult change. A private institution of learning and research cannot, by simple act of will, excuse itself from political and social issues— climate change and the fossil fuel companies most responsible for it being one such issue.
In an era defined by climate change, we are all accountable for taking whatever actions we can to mitigate its effects— particularly accountable are those with knowledge, power, and resources. Research is part of the solution. Using less is part of the solution. But it’s not enough. Not when the problem is here, today.
And so it’s now that we ask the hard questions, and demand real solutions. Is it morally conscionable to make profits, even if for the worthy cause of education, if those profits fuel a future defined by climate change? Divest Duke says no. An institution that prepares its students for the future should not, at the same time, endanger it with its investments.
And so we at Divest Duke stand in solidarity with our peers at universities around the country hearing “No”, gathering petitions to no end, holding rallies and panels and writing columns and letters to the editor, and we ask you to keep fighting. We certainly will. We have just begun.
Nunu Wu and the Divest Duke team
Today (27 November), the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics(LSE) will host Lord Browne for a talk entitled “A Fractured Future: climate change in an age of fossil fuel abundance”.
The invitation to Lord Browne has raised the hackles of many students and academics at LSE and beyond, given his prominent role and financial interests in the continued extraction of fossil fuels. As well as being former Chief Executive of BP, he is the Chairman of Cuadrilla – the company responsible for the UK’s current fracking projects, and managing partner in Riverside Holdings which finances UK fracking operations.
Student campaigners have pointed out that the Grantham Research Institute chose to leave off these relevant aspects of Lord Browne’s CV and bill him as a pro-climate maverick in the oil world. Despite a very brief flirt with green energy under his watch over a decade ago, students from LSE Divest – a group calling for LSE to divest its endowment from fossil fuels – describe BP’s efforts to re-brand as ‘Beyond Petroleum’ as:
“nothing more than a short lived and cynical marketing exercise – the only scrap of which remains is the now somewhat ironic ‘greener’ flower logo.”
The invitation is all the more surprising since the Grantham Research Institute is home to excellent independent research on climate change and fossil fuels. In fact, the Institute co-authored the Unburnable Carbon 2013 report that makes the clearest scientific and financial case to date for leaving 80% of fossil fuels in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. The report has spurred on the rapidly growing UK divestment movement and highlighted to investors worldwide the risks of fossil fuel companies being left with “stranded assets” – vastly overvalued reserves of oil, coal and gas that cannot be burned due to global climate legislation to keep global warming under 2C.
“Considering Lord Browne’s business interests, his influence in Whitehall, the Cabinet and policy making, the conflicts of interest he exudes are dangerous and surprisingly unquestioned. Although Lord Browne was one of the first big oil executives to acknowledge the threat of global warming, his concern does not extend to the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels. Rather, he is concerned with continuing our dependence on this unsustainable energy resource in order to protect his industry; one that greatly contributes to the destruction of the planet. There are significant environmental reasons why fracking, and CSS are not the answer to climate change but sadly there is no platform for these arguments to be advanced. That’s why the LSE Divest team will be there informing people about the alternative view and we hear there may be other activists from around the capital hoping to do the same.” LSE Divest
- Anyone wanting to know more and get up to date on the real solutions to climate change can visit LSE Divest on Facebook or follow @LSEDivest on Twitter.
- To call on LSE to listen to its own researchers and divest from fossil fuel companies, sign the LSE petition
- If you’d like to comment on the LSE’s decision to invite Lord Browne to deliver a climate lecture – you can join the debate on Twitter at 6.30pm (GMT) this evening using the hashtag #LSEclimate.
Written by: David Smith and Cody Pitz, SLU EAO Divestment Committee. Re-posted from The Hill News
For the last couple of weeks, students on campus may have seen the Environmental Action Organization (EAO) tabling in the Student Center and talking specifically about something called “divestment”. EAO’s new fossil fuel divestment campaign has been in the works since late last semester, and the end goal is to have St. Lawrence fully divest its endowment holdings from the fossil fuel industry within five years.
As an institution of moral, EAO feels that the university should not be invested in companies that exploit people and destroy the environment. This is the basis for the idea of divestment. Fossil Fuel divestment is not a new idea. During apartheid in South Africa, colleges, universities, cities and churches divested in stocks and bonds invested in the South African Regime. The movement grew to create a national and international discussion and through capital flight, South Africa was pressured to end apartheid in 1990. St. Lawrence was involved in this campaign as well as a similar tobacco divestment campaign. St. Lawrence today is still divested from tobacco.
Fossil fuel companies, including oil, coal, natural gas and tar sands corporations are something an institution of moral should not be invested in. The burning of fossil fuels accelerates global climate change, and this leads to sea level rise, more frequent and more intense storms, floods, droughts, and a myriad of other problems that will result in catastrophic and possibly irreversible damage on humanity as a whole and the planet. Living in a society based on oil and gas, fossil fuel are some of the wealthiest companies in the world. Their practices are still subsidized by the government and the revenue generated allows fossil fuel companies to maintain a dominant voice in our current political system. Limiting the power of fossil fuel companies, will hopefully limit the power they have on legislative decisions and allow for a more sustainable and green future to be built.
EAO realizes that St. Lawrence divesting from fossil fuels will not do a thing to fossil fuel earnings, however it is the message we are sending that is important. It is a message that will resonate with our peers and other leading institutions of higher education that we believe it is immoral to profit from the exploitation and destruction of human lives and our planet. With enough institutions divesting from fossil fuels, the campaign will thrust into the public’s view, much as it did during apartheid. Discussion and public opinion is what is needed to make the changes for a more sustainable society. Divestment is the push our society needs to transition away from fuel sources causing climate change to utilizing renewable energy.
Colleges, universities, cities, religious institutions and organizations all over the world are already involved in divestment campaigns. Several universities have already fully divested including San Francisco State University, Green Mountain College, Unity College, Hampshire College and College of the Atlantic. Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Boulder, Santa Fe, Providence and Ithaca are just some of the cities that have committed to divestment as well.
St. Lawrence touts its self as a sustainable university and markets itself as green to prospective students. The university was recently evaluated in the Sustainability, Tracking, and Assessment & Rating System (STARS), earning a silver rating. The largest dark spot on our report was the section on investments, where we earned a score of .25/16.75. St Lawrence scored 0/2 on ‘Committee on Investor Responsibility’, 0/5 on ‘Shareholder Advocacy’, 0/9 on ‘Positive Sustainability Investments’, 0/.25 on ‘Student Managed Sustainable Investment Fund’, and 0/.25 on ‘Sustainable Investment Policy’. St. Lawrence did earn full credit on ‘Investment Disclosure’, as the administration makes endowment data readily available, and makes every effort to be transparent and receptive to at least the consideration of alternative endowment ideas.
Divesting away from fossil fuels may seem like a risky ordeal however, investing in fossil fuels is also a risky investment. In fact, other colleges and cities that have previously divested from fossil fuels have seen little to no change in their endowment. According to 350.org, divestment increases portfolio risk by only 0.0034%. On the other hand, 80% of investment managers note that climate change is a risk to their investment. EAO feels that this is a great opportunity to invest in socially responsible, stocks, bonds and funds. In essence, a change from fossil fuel investments to socially responsible ones is an investment long lasting into our future.
Movements such as this one need hundreds or thousands of small parts working together (schools, cities and other institutions all divesting) in order to achieve their goals. If we are inactive bystanders, we are contributing to the stagnation of the movement by failing to contribute to its growth, and ignoring the moral obligation to withdraw investments from fossil fuels. Action will eventually become expected, the same way divestment from the tobacco industry and South Africa during apartheid became expected, and it would be better to be among the first than the last to divest.
EAO is looking to bring this issue to the attention of Thelmo and the Board of Trustees in hope of a commitment to divestment. Sign the St. Lawrence divestment petition here, and voice your support to the administration, Thelmo and the Board of Trustees. Paper petitions will also be available to sign next week. If interested in working with the divestment committee of EAO please stop by the divestment table around noon in the student center.
This guest post was written by guest blogger Spencer Johnson & cross-posted from 350 MA’s Climate Beat.
On November 8th, 2013 SuperTyphoon Haiyan, (known locally as Yolanda) struck the Philippines. According to NASA this was perhaps the most powerful tropical cyclone ever to make landfall. The width of Haiyan, as it made swept menacingly across the country, was 370 miles. It ripped through over 494,000 houses and 628 schools, killing approximately 4,000 people, though the exact death toll might never be known. 12,500 people were injured and 1,600 are still missing. 13 million have been affected by this storm, 4.9 million of whom are children. 3 million people have been displaced and 2.5 million are in need of food assistance. The storm surge in Tacloban, the “biggest city in the hardest-hit central of the Philippines” was 17 feet high.
The ferocity of this storm was no accident. Michael Mann, a meteorologist from Penn State points out that “models suggest more frequent and intense storms in a warmed world” and that “readings of ocean heat” suggest Haiyan was an “unnaturally powerful” storm. He goes further to say the deep and warm water that provided Haiyan’s initial “fuel” is “unlikely to have existed in a world without warming.”
We saw Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and SuperStorm Sandy in 2011 and now we can add Haiyan to the list of SuperVillainous storms that flourish in a world of climate change, costing billions of dollars in damages and, more importantly, costing the lives of our brothers and sisters worldwide. Many of those affected by climate change have no choice, but to watch the terror ensue. They have to sit idly-by and watch as our industrial addiction to fossil fuels degrades their lands and decimates their populations. Corporations are taming government leaders with donations, silencing our citizens with death threats (warning: explicit content), ignoring safety regulations, censoring government studies, and destroying the environment on which we rely to survive.
And now, when the time has come to talk about it (or more like the 19th time has come to talk about it), our leaders continue to refuse to take immediate and decisive action on climate change. In response, last Monday, Naderev Yeb Saño the Philippines’ Lead Negotiator, declared in a speech that personally brought tears to my eyes, that he would eat no food throughout the course of the conference’s 12 days or until appropriate action was taken to address the global climate change crisis. Since then, a petition has been signed by over 605,000 citizens around the world who stand in solidarity with Saño and the Philippines, in addition to all those suffering worldwide as a result of catastrophic climate change.
In fact, this Monday, a week after Saño started his fast, college students from all over the world signed on to join him for a day, a couple days, or (like myself) for the whole week. The “Stop The Madness” Facebook Event has over 1,100 participants after only two days and the numbers are continuing to grow. I’ve personally been fasting for over 49 hours, drinking only a lemon/syrup/cayenne tincture, water, tea, and coffee. Many are fasting differently, but I’ve found this concoction to be most helpful (I was told to switch to grapefruit, though, so I may try that next).
In addition to fasting, many schools are planning candlelight vigils for the victims of Haiyan and others are creating memes, changing their Facebook profile pictures to red dots, and holding demonstrations in their school dining halls with posters and empty plates with things like: #WeStandWithYou, #ActOnClimate, #StopTheMadness and Solidarity With Saño on them. The amount of press this movement is attaining is something akin to an appearance by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and it’s spreading like a viral YouTube video.
In all seriousness, though, this is the kind of movement we need to see. A movement where people of all ages, all professions, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all ethnicities, stand together in solidarity with those who are being impacted by our rapidly changing climate; a movement where media pays attention to cries of help, the chants of activists pleading to their political leaders, and focuses on the imperative problems at hand instead of merely sweeping them under a sofa of political corruption and pollution.
This movement is growing and growing fast. And as I grow hungrier and the time ticks and my stomach growls and the possum outside nibbles at my compost I have hope, I have faith, and most of all, in solidarity with Yeb Saño and the Philippines, I, we, have strength.
Onwards & Peace,
Spencer H. Johnson
Divest UMaine is having success in our efforts to connect the issues of divestment, budget cuts and student debt.
At the University of Southern Maine, students have been organizing against budget cut announcements. These threatened cuts are just part of a defunding trend in Maine’s public universities over the last few years. Divest UMaine has joined the fight, and divestment was included in the language of the resulting student resolution.
“In this spirit, instead of cutting programs and defunding departments, we believe we should be focusing our energy on continuing creative fundraising, including tapping into our huge alumni resources. In addition, it is antithetical to the vision of USM as community stewards to continue investing our endowment in coal, oil, and natural gas industries. As such, we believe that the University Of Southern Maine should be completely divested from these industries within the next five years.”
You can read the full Student Vision resolution at our change.org petition here.
We’re really excited about this approach, bringing together the issues of divestment, budget cuts and student debt— as these are all areas where students are becoming politicized as to how our public institutions are run. Education as public good is a principle that we need to hold dear as we look down the long road towards addressing the climate crisis.
USM shares an endowment with 7 system schools, including University of Maine Orono, where students have been organizing against student debt. Building a stronger relationship with that group is our next step.
If anyone is interested in talking more about this approach, or if you’re doing similar organizing, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch through our Divest UMaine Facebook page.
In solidarity for climate justice,
This blog was written by Elise Shulman, organizer with DC Divest.
Hello from DC Divest, organizing in Washington, DC, the heart of America’s political system. Okay, you might question whether Capitol Hill has much of a heartbeat right now — but there’s plenty of local action in the District, especially around climate change concerns.
Recently, the DC Council passed the Community Solar renewables act, expanding access to clean solar power and its savings to renters, condos, non-profits, and low-income households that can’t install solar on their own. And advocates are pushing legislation to remove incentives for companies to burn “black liquor,” a carbon-packed byproduct of paper manufacturing.
And with a little luck and a lot of public support, in a few months, the Council of the District of Columbia could vote for legislation that would require the city to take investments in fossil fuel companies out of its portfolios.
In September, some forward-thinking members of the Council introduced the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act of 2013 as the result of hard work of DC Divest and other engaged District citizens concerned about the need for more and faster action on climate change.
Why did we take up 350’s call for divestment? Because Washington, DC currently invests in some of the largest polluting companies on the planet. What’s worse, DC is the richest city in the nation — yet one in five District residents lives in poverty, a cohort especially vulnerable to devastating storms (like Haiyan and Sandy), sea-level rise, and heat waves. The good news is that we can organize and demand that our government do something about it right now.
We have gotten this far only through the support of our community. For example, in September, District religious groups, advocacy organizations, students with university divestment campaigns, and concerned residents all pitched in — gathering petition signatures, tabling at events, and offering their expertise – to create an amazing Draw the Line event which drew 140 attendees as well as national and international press.
Building on this success, we see the upcoming hearing on DC’s proposed Fossil Fuel Divestment Act as pivotal. By getting the nation’s capital to take action on climate change, we hope to inspire other advocates to create change where they live and show America’s leaders on Capitol Hill how much work they have to do to transition away from a dirty, unjust energy system and to a fair clean-energy economy.
We need your help to make the DC Council’s November 26th win for the global climate action movement.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED:
1. Come to the hearing and bring your friends. Every voice matters.
2. Testify in support of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act. DC Divest can help you prepare a three-minute testimonial. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Contact your ward Councilmember and At-Large Members. See our Call for Action cheat sheet with contact info and sample phone & tweet scripts.
Divesting the nation’s capital broadcasts a powerful message to the rest of the country that we will not tolerate the destruction of our planet. Join us in making this goal a reality.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 21, 2013
83 Percent of Participating Yale Students Vote to Support Fossil Fuel Divestment
NEW HAVEN, CT. – Eighty-three percent of participating Yale students voted for Yale University to divest from the dirtiest fossil fuel companies, in a referendum held by the Yale College Council. Over 2,000 students participated in the referendum. The results demonstrate student support for divestment.
The Yale College Council, the undergraduate student government, hosted the referendum from November 17 to November 20. Fossil Free Yale, the divestment campaign, was opposed by Students for a Strong Endowment, a student group formed following the announcement of the referendum. Fossil Free Yale advocated a plan for divestment following guidelines on investor responsibility as outlined in the Yale-authored The Ethical Investor.
Fossil Free Yale proposes divestment from the companies contributing the most to climate change, while encouraging improvement in environmental performance. Under Fossil Free Yale’s plan, companies would first disclose their greenhouse gas emissions data. Yale would divest from non-reporting companies. The proposal then advocates engagement with the dirtiest fossil fuel companies to decrease their contribution to climate change before divesting from the companies with the highest emissions intensities, measured by greenhouse gas emissions per unit energy produced. Fossil Free Yale’s proposal reflects conversations with the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, with which the group has worked since January 2013. The Advisory Committee provides recommendations on ethical investing to the Yale Corporation.
Following the referendum, Fossil Free Yale plans to continue to engage with the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility. Yale College Council will now offer their support to the campaign. Fossil Free Yale will continue to work with Yale professors to review the proposal for divestment and, in particular, the metrics used to evaluate a company’s contributions to climate change. The campaign will also focus efforts on alumni, graduate student, faculty, and staff support.
CONTACT: Hannah Nesser <email@example.com>
For more information: http://fossilfreeyale.org/
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 20, 2013
‘Carbon bubbles’ visit Bank of England to warn of financial crisis
LONDON, England — The Bank of England was visited today by five human ‘Carbon Bubbles’ to warn of the huge financial risk posed by the ‘Carbon Bubble’. The message being delivered is that failure to divest from fossil fuels could see the biggest financial crisis the world has ever seen.
The bubbles, members of 350.org’s ‘Fossil Free’ campaign on fossil fuel divestment , are calling for the Financial Policy Committee (FPC), meeting at The Bank of England, to investigate the financial impact of over valuation of oil and gas reserves.
The group wants to see divestment from fossil fuels across the pension and investment community due to overvaluation of assets as highlighted by a recent report entitled ‘Un-burnable Carbon,’ from the UK-based Carbon Tracker Initiative .
Susie Wheeldon, a spokesperson from the group said:
“We are on the brink of the world’s largest ever financial crisis and it’s time to wake up. We simply can’t go through this again. The UK Pensions Minister, asset managers, investors and banks have expressed their concern about stranded carbon assets but there is no mandate in place to demand the fossil fuel industry disclose the emissions potential of their reserves. Pension, investment funds and institutions are pulling their money from fossil fuels faster than any other divestment action we’ve seen. We simply can’t afford to waste time.”
“It is the responsibility of the FPC to protect the UK financial system and every person in this country, from the impending carbon bubble”, said Charlotte Webster, a member of the group, “Following the financial crash, the UK taxpayer bailed out the banks with £123.93 billion; there were 3.7 million job losses in 2009 alone. The Regulator did not see it coming. This time, they have no excuse. They need to make it mandatory for fossil fuel companies to report the emissions potential of their reserves.”
Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Proven coal, oil, and gas reserves equal around 2,795 gigatons of CO2 – five times more than it is possible to burn if we are to avoid dangerous – and costly – anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
Last month, the co-founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben, visited London warning asset managers, investors and pension funds about the ‘carbon bubble’ and urging them to divest from fossil fuels.
350.org launched the divestment campaign last autumn and the movement has already spread to over 300 colleges and universities and 100 cities and states in the United States, Australia, and Canada. Over 15 cities, six colleges, and numerous religious institutions, have already committed to dump their fossil fuel holdings.
Most recently 70 global investors, managing over $3 trillion of assets, have demanded the oil, gas and coal companies asses the risks that climate change poses to their business plans.
In the UK, ‘Operation Noah’ is calling for fossil free churches with it’s campaign Bright Now, whilst the London insurance industry think tank, ClimateWise, has urged asset managers to review fossil fuel investments due to the risks they pose directly, as well as to their insurance portfolios.
00 44 7903 701343
NOTES TO EDITORS
 Carbon Tracker Initiative Un-burnable Carbon 2013 report: http://www.carbontracker.org/wastedcapital
 More pictures at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/350org/sets/72157637871712445/
Maine— Students across the state have created a coalition to demand greater statewide urgency in addressing climate change.
Maine Students for Climate Justice (MSCJ) was started by student leaders from Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, College of the Atlantic, University of New England, University of Southern Maine, and University of Maine, Orono. Reaching out to other colleges, they are broadening their front in ongoing national efforts to address climate change, from divesting colleges, churches and cities from fossil fuel corporations, to halting tar sands production.
“Climate change isn’t just an issue that our grandchildren will face. It’s affecting communities worldwide, right now,” said Aurie Ingraham-Adie, coalition member from University of New England. “We’re not waiting for graduation to start making change.”
One of the MSCJ’s first projects is to divest more Maine colleges from fossil fuels. With two Maine colleges —Unity College and College of the Atlantic— already divested, Maine students are eager to remain in the forefront of the national movement to divest higher learning institutions from fossil fuels. Students are engaged in active divestment campaigns at Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin colleges, Maine College of Art, University of New England, University of Southern Maine, and University of Maine Farmington and Orono.
“This coalition is going to make all of our divestment campaigns stronger,” said Iris SanGiovanni, from University of Southern Maine. “We are learning from each other, and we’re ready to stand up for each other to demand divestment throughout Maine.”
“Divestment is going to happen,” said Meaghan LaSala, a MSCJ member from University of Southern Maine. “Fossil fuel divestment is the fastest growing divestment movement ever. Maine can choose to be a leader or a follower.”
“Divestment is a good way for people to do something about this very imminent crisis,” said Lucas Burdick, College of the Atlantic student. “Divesting your school from fossil fuels makes a serious symbolic statement about the gravity of climate change. Sending that message, that planetary stability is more important than return on profit, matters.”
Currently, students from College of the Atlantic and from University of New England are in attending the UN climate talks Warsaw, Poland. Home in Maine, members of MSCJ are closely following the student coverage of the conference.
Nathan Thanki, a CoA student, spoke from Poland to members of MSCJ. “Maine’s coastal impacts will be severe,” he said. “Even if Maine stopped emitting, the rest of the worlds emissions would mean we suffer all the negative impacts. So we need some bigger picture thinking.”
In late October, 80 students from MSCJ attended PowerShift, one of the largest convergences of youth climate activists in the country .
“Powershift reminded me that we’re not alone,” said Iris SanGiovanni. “There are communities all around the world who are standing up, too. Young people everywhere realize that we’re on track for a climate disaster. We’re the ones that need to change the course of history.”
After successfully organizing students to go to PowerShift, MSCJ is looking towards larger actions in the future— from statewide campaigns like divestment, to bringing youth voices to the state legislature, and to community struggles like the efforts to resist Tar Sands transportation in Maine. MSCJ is planning a Student Summit at Maine’s first Climate Solutions Summit and Expo in March— an event to bring people together from across sectors to forge real climate solutions, from academia, to community groups, and public policy makers.
Written by Emma Davis; Re-posted from the Wesleyan Argus,”WSA Resolution Seeks Fossil Fuel Divestment“
The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) recently passed “Resolution 5.35: Fossil Fuel Divestment,” which urges the University to divest from fossil fuels. The resolution, first introduced on Oct. 6 and passed on Oct. 27, proposes divestment as a means of furthering social and environmental justice on a financial level. Citing the University’s Climate Action Plan and its stance against the negative impact of fossil fuels, the resolution addresses the seeming hypocrisy of the University’s current investments.
“Wesleyan’s successes in fighting economic inequality and climate change risk negation by the impact of its financial decisions,” the resolution reads. “[It is ironic] that much of the research and learning at Wesleyan is directed towards fighting the very systems that Wesleyan supports with its endowment.”
In an Argus article published on Oct. 7, President Michael Roth outlined the process a student interested in changing investment policies should take.
“We have talked a little bit about it in the Investment Committee,” Roth said. “What I’ve said to the students with whom I’ve met is that the best thing to do is to work through the Committee for Investor Responsibility [CIR]. I think it would be good to have something in writing, a memo of some kind, that explains the rationale for changing our investment policies in this regard.”
Now in its second semester, Wes, Divest! has worked with the WSA throughout October to draft and generate support for the recently passed resolution.
The resolution was sponsored by WSA members Kate Cullen ’16, Scott Elias ’14, Aidan Martinez ’17, Angus McLean ’16, and Ben Marvin-Vanderryn ’17, as well as Wes, Divest! member Zachary Wulderk ’15, and passed by a vote of 20 in favor, 6 opposed, and 5 abstained. Cullen described the motivation behind the introduction and adoption of the resolution.
“The goal is to a) get the conversation started, b) make sure CIR plays a larger role in these conversations and has more power and sway in the administration, [and c)] to get the board talking about it… to really just have a tangible piece of paper that says, ‘This is what students think; let’s work together to make this happen,’” Cullen said. “And hopefully through different discussions and education efforts we can get the Board [of Trustees] and President Roth and other administrators to understand how important [divestment] is.”
The resolution discusses the socioeconomic implications of condoning the use of fossil fuels, the production of which disproportionately afflicts minority and low-income populations. To highlight the University’s commitment to the endowment as a means of social change, the resolution listed conscientious divestments the University has made in the past.
“Wesleyan has taken a pretty clear stance that climate change is an injustice, but as of now, it’s totally complicit with that injustice, so this offers us the chance to validate this university’s mission,” McLean said. “As Michael Roth said, we should be a responsible institutional citizen, and this is the way to do that.”
The Polish government’s decision to put the coal industry front and center at this year’s UN climate negotiations has sparked a backlash from young people and civil society groups who are determined to challenge the social license of coal companies and the broader fossil fuel industry.
“It’s time to start treating the fossil fuel industry like Big Tobacco,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, an international climate campaign. “When it comes to the UN Climate Talks, the fossil fuel companies aren’t just looking for a seat at the table, they’re looking to burn the table down. Until we can challenge their political power, we won’t see real climate progress.”
At the Climate Action Network press conference in Warsaw today, a representative from YOUNGO, the youth constituency at the talks, will speak about the growing divestment movement that is going after the social license of the fossil fuel industry.
“The fossil fuel industry’s business model is fundamentally opposed to the survival of people across the world and a decent life for my generation,” said Louisa Casson, communications officer with the UK Youth Climate Coalition. “The industry is making a desperate attempt for relevancy here at COP19, but their time is up, they have no future. These talks must be about the future of my generation and generations to come.”
YOUNGO are planning a variety of actions here in Warsaw to target the fossil fuel industry and stand in solidarity with the millions of people in the Philippines and around the world who are feeling the impacts of climate change. YOUNGO will also be hosting a side-event focused on the divestment movement.
The growing fossil fuel divestment campaign has spread to over 500 universities, cities and religious institutions across Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Nearly 50 institutions have already divested, including the UK Quakers, the United Church of Christ in the United States, major cities like Seattle and San Francisco, and a growing number of universities. Large pension funds, such as Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, are considering divestment from fossil fuels like coal.
Activists are already labeling the Warsaw negotiations the “Coal COP” (Council of the Parties) and pushing the U.N. Secretariat and progressive countries to take a stronger stand against the industry.
In the weeks leading up the negotiations, the Polish government has doubled down on its embrace of the coal industry, making it clear they have no plans to seriously address consumption or emissions. The government is partnering with the World Coal Association to hold a major coal summit during the second week of the climate talks. Coal fired power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emission in the world, making coal the number one threat to the climate.
“Hosting a coal and climate summit side-by-side is like throwing a cigarette expo next to a meeting of cancer experts,” said 350.org’s executive director, May Boeve.
All of the emphasis on coal, however, has only served to cast more of a spotlight on the fragile state of the industry.
In the United States, coal demand has fallen by about 20% over the last five years, while environmental regulations in Europe will force the closure of many coal fired power plants over the next decade. The drop in demand has resulted in a similar drop in share price for many coal companies, sometimes by as much as 75%.
The situation for the industry will only get worse. According to a slew of recent reports by institutions like the World Bank, HSBC, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 60-80% of current fossil fuel reserves must stay underground in order to limit global warming to below 2°C.
Coal, and other high-carbon, unconventional fuels such as tar sands, are likely to be the hardest hit by the tightening carbon budget. The threat of these reserves turning into stranded assets has led many investors to start shedding their coal industry stocks, and fueled fears of a carbon bubble resulting from the overvaluation of fossil fuel companies. The prices of some coal mining companies have plummeted 75%, while many others have gone out of business.