Dominoes Fall as #Divestment Movement Celebrates Victories Nationwide
It’s been an incredible couple weeks of victories for the divestment movement!
Hot on the heels of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence 2014 at San Francisco State University, our momentum is exploding as students pledge to dig deep, link up, and take action.
Check out this reportback from SFSU student Daniel Adel and the storify for social media highlights if you weren’t able to join the convergence.
Victory! Pitzer College Divests!
After a year and a half of campaigning, Pitzer students have won the most comprehensive divestment plan yet!
Among many other initiatives, Pitzer, one of the 5 Claremont Colleges, has now pledged to:
- Divest their endowment from fossil fuels by the end of this year
- Incorporate environmental and social governance factors into their investment decisions
- Start a Pitzer Sustainability Fund within the endowment
Pitzer students were the first campus group to start a Responsible Endowments Fund. Before the decision was made, alumni and other supporters donated $11,972 to this independent fund to ensure that their money would go to support just and sustainable projects, rather than the fossil fuel industry.
As the Pitzer administration moves forward on its plan, students are thinking about what comes next. Jess Grady-Benson, Class of 2014, says, "I am excited for the campaign to continue to engage with Pitzer in developing a creative reinvestment plan that will powerfully support a transition to a democratized clean energy economy.” Check out this powerful reflection piece from the Pitzer students on their victory and what it means for the movement! You can also watch the press conference, featuring Jess and Trustee Robert Redford, on youtube.
Big News from Harvard!
Dispatch from Sam Wohns, Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition
Last week, Harvard University made a huge announcement. Harvard, which has over $32 billion in its endowment, is becoming the first US school to sign the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment and the Carbon Disclosure Project. They also pledged to create a $20 million Climate Solutions Fund.
This is a big step. Students and alumni have been putting significant pressure on Harvard to take real action on its endowment -- from its agricultural investments in Argentina to its investments in fossil fuels. Harvard is taking us seriously, and that's good news. But now isn't the time to let up--we need to hold them to their commitments.
That’s why Divest Harvard upped the ante this week by releasing a letter of support signed by over 100 faculty!
The strong tone of the letter clearly told President Faust and the Corporation that they would settle for nothing short of full fossil fuel divestment. The letter represents an escalation of the campaign and a powerful show of the impact of united faculty for divestment.
Harvard student Chloe Maxmin said the university’s decision to sign on to the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment and to create a Climate Change Solutions Fund were successes for the movement. “However,” she continued, “Harvard is still investing millions in climate destruction. In order to achieve our goals of investing responsibly AND to align our values, Harvard must divest.”
Middlebury College creates $50m Sustainability Fund!
More exciting news on the fossil fuel divestment front this week coming out of Middlebury College in Vermont!
In an email this Monday, President Ron Liebowitz wrote, “[The College] recently increased by a significant factor the amount of its endowment specifically directed towards investments that generate long-term social, environmental, and economic value. This includes investments focused on sustainable businesses such as clean energy, water, climate science, and green building projects. The value of these specifically directed investments is $25 million as of February 28, 2014.” Patrick Norton, the VP of Finance at Middlebury, stated that this number will rise to $50 million within five years.
Greta Neubauer, a member of Divest Middlebury, shared, “This, combined with other news from around the country this week, feels like a different kind of momentum than last year. It is a rolling movement forward, like falling dominoes.”
Lauren Ressler of the Responsible Endowments Coalition remarked, “The Middlebury organizers will continue to call for divestment and are excited to see the campus taking tangible steps in that direction.” Additionally, Middlebury is giving $150,000 to the student-run Socially Responsible Investment Club, putting real decision making power into the hands of students!
Sit-In at WashU for Divestment!
“Peabody CEO Greg Boyce also holds one more distinction: member of the Washington University Board of Trustees. Since Boyce was placed on the board in 2009, students have been actively organizing against Peabody Energy’s presence on campus. We have demanded that Boyce be removed from the Board of Trustees and that the University change the name of the “Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization,” a research entity to which Peabody and Arch Coal donated $5,000,000. We have met with the Chancellor -- multiple times. We have dropped banners at coal events, peacefully disrupted speeches by Greg Boyce on campus, marched through campus and taken our demands to Peabody’s headquarters. We have protested with residents from Black Mesa, collected signatures for the Take Back St. Louis ballot initiative and rallied with the United Mine Workers in their fight against Peabody.
But, five years later, Boyce is still on the board, the name of the Clean Coal Consortium remains unchanged, and Chancellor Wrighton continues to stand behind Peabody Energy. The Administration has successfully used a “deny by delay” process by holding town hall meetings and developing task forces around renewable energy and energy efficiency while ignoring the role that coal plays on the campus.
Thus, like many campus divestment campaigns across the country, we are at a crossroads.
Escalating on campus is scary. We know it is going to be divisive. We know our Chancellor fundamentally disagrees with us. But not escalating is even scarier. Not escalating means Peabody continues to destroy communities and our climate. And that’s a risk we cannot take.”
New IPCC Report: Fossil Fuel Divestment Must Start Now
The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released a report about the state of the climate, in which it explores possible scenarios to prohibit the earth’s temperature from rising above 2*C.
The report explicitly endorsed fossil fuel divestment and encouraged investors to take action immediately or the costs to portfolios and the climate will be devastating in the future.
Earlier this year, UN Climate Secretary Christiana Figueres endorsed the divestment movement.
“The continued and dangerous rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is in large part the direct result of past investments in energy and mobility systems based on the use of fossil fuels,” Ms Figueres told an audience of investors and corporate leaders in New York with more than $20 trillion in combined assets. “New investments must now assist in reversing this unsustainable trend, and quickly if the world is to have a chance of staying under a 2*C temperature rise,” she said.
Desmond Tutu urges divestment now!
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a key leader in the South African Anti-Apartheid movement which birthed the first divestment campaign in the 1970s, wrote a powerful article in the Guardian endorsing fossil fuel divestment and demanding our institutions take action now.
People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change. And the good news is that we don't have to start from scratch. Young people across the world have already begun to do something about it. The fossil fuel divestment campaign is the fastest growing corporate campaign of its kind in history. It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future.
Also check out this Democracy Now piece about our movement’s momentum!