The period of transition from October to November has been an incredible time for the divestment movement. There have been some major wins, a lot of firsts, and even more planning and brewing for major announcements in the coming weeks.
Due to the number of times we’ve uttered the phrase, “First to divest in…!” We’re calling the trend of this month, “divestment is for pioneers.” See below for a recap on the notable global pioneers we wanted to highlight for this month’s edition of the Divest Digest.
Note: All photos are taken from the Awesome Facebook pages of these campus groups. Click on the headings of each of these colleges and universities to go right to their pages and learn more about what these communities are up to.
5 Global Campuses Changing History
On November 3, 2014, over 20 campuses across the United States stood up and demanded their university administrations reconsider the funding they receive from major corporate donors. This pushback directly targets the correlation between funders’ money and their intentions to embed their own preferences and interests into student research and education.
Student actions ranged from teach-ins, the filing of a Freedom of Information Act to disclose funders and allocations, and protests to raise student awareness and exert pressure on universities to extricate themselves from the influence of major corporate donors such as the Koch Brothers. Greenpeace has documented that over $50 million has been sent by Koch industries from 2005-2012.
If you want to become more familiar with the Koch Brothers through a timely Daily Show spoof, here’s your chance.
VICTORIA UNIVERSITY FIRST IN NEW ZEALAND TO DIVEST (NZ)
On November 2, 2014, 350 Aotearoa congratulated Victoria University on its decision to become the first university in New Zealand to divest from fossil fuels. According to their Vice Chancellor Grant Guilford, “The research strongly suggests that unless the world reduces its reliance on fossil fuels, climate change and ocean acidification will have severe impacts on life on land and in our oceans. Other factors taken into account were the business continuity risks from sea level rises to Victoria’s low lying Pipitea Campus, and the investment risks of ‘stranded assets’ in the fossil fuels sector. It is important… that the University aligns its investment decisions with the results of its scientific research and its public stance on climate change while it continues to work on actively reducing its own carbon footprint.”
AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITY DIVESTMENT LEADS TO CRITICAL UPRISING (AU)
The Australian National University made history, and a great deal of international media channels quite upset, when ANU announced that they were selling $16 million of shares in two fossil fuel companies and five other mining companies. The backlash has been unprecedented, with critical attacks rising from Forbes and AFR (the Australian Financial Review), with AFR alone publishing over 43 stories, 30,000 words and 5 front covers in the last month, all on the topic of one university divesting from a handful of companies.
Vice Chancellor of the University Professor Ian Young states, “ANU invests for the betterment of its community – students, staff and researchers. The returns on these investments fund scholarships, staff salaries, research projects and new infrastructure. The University has a responsibility to invest wisely but also in a manner consistent with the desires of our stakeholder students, alumni and staff. To this end, the decision to divest was made after a review commissioned as part of our Socially Responsible Investment Policy. The review was undertaken by the independent Centre for Australian Ethical Research (CAER) and provided Environmental, Social and Governance Ratings on ANU-held domestic stocks. Using an internationally recognised methodology, our investments were assessed against environmental, social and governance criteria.”
This past October, Glasgow University became the first university in Europe to divest. The decision followed a 12 month- long student-led campaign involving over 1,300 students and resulting in the withdrawal of over 18m pounds of funds from fossil fuels. The Secretary of the University of Glasgow explains the decision, “The University recognises the devastating impact that climate change may have on our planet, and the need for the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Over the coming years we will steadily reduce our investment in the fossil fuel extraction industry, while also taking steps to reduce our carbon consumption.”
For the past two years, American University has been gearing up to bring their University divestment decision to their board. The long awaited board meeting will be November 21 (and we can’t wait to tell you about it in our next digest!). In preparation for this major decision, students are handwriting letters every day to their board members, and are featuring a three part blog series on our site documenting where they’ve come from and how they plan to pressure their university administration into aligning their financial investments with university morals.
Follow their story, and their letters, and wish them luck!
5 Global Communities You Want To Join
October was a huge month for divestment at the Anglican Dioceses in Australia. First the Anglican Dioceses of Perth announced they would divest, only to be followed by their colleagues in Canberra, and then later in Melbourne. Dr Beth Heyde, Chair of the Public Affairs Commission of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia comments, “The Anglican Church of Australia views climate change as a deeply moral issue. In July, the national Synod acknowledged with deep regret that it is future generations and other forms of life who will bear the real cost of our heavy dependence on carbon-based energy, recommending that all Dioceses review the ecological sustainability of their investments,” said Dr Beth Heyde, Chair of the Public Affairs Commission of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia.
These actions are the building blocks for a nationwide divestment movement across religious and community institutions in Australia.
From the 350 Australia blog: The City of Moreland has become the first council in Victoria to rule out direct investments in fossil fuels and the first council in Australia to start developing a strategy to move investments away from financial institutions that fund fossil fuel developments, after a vote on Wednesday evening. Around 30 cities and counties internationally have made similar commitments, including Seattle, Dunedin, and Oxford. The announcement also comes hot on the heels of similar divestment commitments made by Local Government Super and the Anglican Diocese of Perth.
Residents from 350.org Melbourne and Climate Action Moreland were thrilled with the result, which comes after months of engagement with the council and the community, including a petition with over 1000 signatures and a community forum held in August which attracted over 100 people.
“The leadership shown by Moreland will be an example to spread to other local councils in Australia, showing that fossil fuel divestment empowers local communities in the fight against climate change,” commented petition organiser Michael Stanley from 350.org Melbourne and Climate Action Moreland.
From the Fossil Free Sweden Site: The City of Örebro is the first Swedish city to commit to pull its funds out of fossil fuels, in a move to align its investments with its environmental goals. Örebro is the 30th local authority worldwide to take this step, following in the footsteps of cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and the Dutch town of Boxtel. It is the latest announcement in a rapidly growing number of institutions that pull their funds out of oil, coal and gas companies.
Örebro, the seventh biggest city in Sweden  with total assets of € 225 million, has already reduced its investments in fossil fuels from more than € 2 million to currently € 655,000 (SEK 6 million) since the City Council has adopted a divestment policy in June. Lena Baastad, mayor of Örebro says, “We need to take action on climate change on various levels. Our efforts are more meaningful, when we ensure that our financial assets don’t work in the opposite direction.” Mats Rodenfelt,Chief Financial Officer at the City of Örebro adds, “Our goal is to become a fossil-free municipality by 2050. It was therefore only natural to also apply this policy to our investments.”
We don’t even know where to begin with Boston, there is so much that has been going on. They started the month of October with the Boston Carbon Forum hosted through the Mayors Innovation Project. Working in partnership with Mayors Innovation Project (MIP) and Better Future Project (BFP), the Boston Carbon Forum was a one-day high-level divestment forum held at Harvard Law School. The event had an audience of around 100 elected officials (city and state), institutional investor trustees, financial consultants, university faculty and activists.
The 350 Massachusetts divestment team has been meeting to strategize around making MA the first to divest in 2015…wait, really?! YES! They are working with the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) to divest the City of Boston. This is a journey you don’t want to miss. Stay tuned in our digests and on the blog to find out more about what they’re doing and how.
VERMONT SEEKS TO PASS FIRST IN THE NATION LEGISLATION FOR DIVESTMENT
In Montpelier, Vermont, Climate change activists are working with their state legislature to divest their state from fossil fuels. This is marked as a major breakthrough in particular because lawmaker Sen. Anthony Pollina has become the first in the United States to introduce legislation to pass this kind of law. For more on the story, read more here and check back in to hear about their progress.