Tag Archives: divestment

Fossil fuels divestment march set for UW-Madison

A group of University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni is urging divestment from fossil fuels and reinvestment in renewable energy.

An open letter, signed by more than 250 alumni and friends, will be presented to the UW Foundation on April 29 at 12:30 pm, following a march at the campus. Divestment activists will gather at Union South near Randall Street at noon on April 29 and then march to the UW Foundation, at 1848 University Ave.

There, UW alumni will present a simulated check representing $7,000 in donations diverted from the foundation and invested instead in fossil-free funds through the Multi-School Divestment Fund.

UW alumna Judith Stadler, in a news release from 350 Madison Climate Action Team, said, “We who have signed the letter believe that continued investment in fossil fuels contradicts the University’s mission, which is to ‘…help ensure the survival of this and future generations and improve the quality of life for all.’ Continued investment in fossil fuels accomplishes the very opposite of the mission. It will lead to an increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases above what scientists agree is a safe level for life as we know it.”

“The signatories of this open letter call on the governing board of the UW Foundation to divest from fossil fuels, especially coal and tar sands, ”added John Zinda of Providence, Rhode Island. and a 2013 graduate.

He’s one of many alumni from across the country helping to amplify student and faculty calls for divestment.

He said, “As a first step, we call on the board to meet with concerned alumni and students before their next board meeting to let us know what the UW Foundation has done to consider the issue of fossil fuel divestment and whether the board has reconsidered its stance in light of the steps toward divestment taken by Stanford, Yale and many smaller schools.”

More that 500 institutions representing more than $3.4 trillion in assets have committed to some form of fossil fuel divestment since the movement began in 2011.

In addition to signing the open letter, UW alumni have diverted contributions of more than $7,000 from the UW Foundation to the Multi-School Divestment Fund, a grassroots collaboration connecting donors to campus divestment efforts.

The total value of the fund, which has 30 participating campuses, is currently more than $50,000. Of that, more than $7,000 is earmarked for UW.

All donations have been steered away from universities with fossil fuel investments.

A growing chorus of students, alumni and parents are calling on universities to pull their investments from companies with practices are incompatible with the globally agreed upon 2° C maximum warming target.

UW-Madison will only receive the $7,000 in the UW-subaccount of the Divestment Fund if it divests from fossil fuels.

If a school has not divested from fossil fuels by December 31, 2017, all donations earmarked for that school will be split between schools that have committed to divestment from fossil fuel stocks.

The $7,000 represents diverted donations from more than 50 UW alumni, including actress Leah Garland and TV writer, Jill Soloway, who donated a walk-on role in her TV show, “Transparent,” to the highest bidder at a recent Climate Change auction.

“Oil and gas companies have known about climate change for decades and have buried the truth.” said Garland said. “Today, we know without doubt about the devastating effects of climate change, and we know that this is the moment to prevent the worsening of climate change given feedback loops. We have to do all we can to switch to renewables.”

On the Web…

Learn more about the Multi-School Divestment Fund.

Spring push for fossil fuels divestment launched on campuses

Students with Swarthmore Mountain Justice took action outside board member Rhonda Cohen’s off-campus office this week, calling on her to recuse herself from future conversations on fossil fuel divestment due to her personal financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.

The demonstration marked the launch of a two-month series of nonviolent direct actions on colleges and universities.

“We refuse to stand idly by as Swarthmore continues to align itself with an industry that is incompatible with our future,” said Sophia Zaia, a sophomore and divestment organizer with Swarthmore Mountain Justice. “Board members can’t make objective decisions on divestment when they have a personal financial stake in the future success of the fossil fuel industry. We have no choice but to escalate to ensure that the conversation on divestment, an issue that leaves us without a moment to lose, is transparent and free from compromising conflicts of interest.”

Students across the country are taking action this spring, calling out links to the fossil fuel industry on their boards and demanding divestment in a campaign sponsored by 350.org.

“We know that change will only come when we take the lead and push our institutions to stand on the right side of history,” said Julia Berkman-Hill, a divestment campaigner and leader with Bowdoin Climate Action. “As long as Bowdoin refuses to move forward on divestment, we will continue to use our voices to show that we do not consent to the College’s relationship to this industry’s inherently destructive business model. Our schools betray us when they invest in the exploitation and deception that the likes of Exxon and Big Oil perpetuate.”

Reports from InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times revealed that Exxon knew about climate change since the 1970s but poured extensive resources into discrediting its own research and sowing doubt and confusion among the public and world governments.

Exxon is currently being probed by the criminal branch of the FBI and four Attorneys General have launched investigations into the corporation’s alleged climate crimes. Also, 20 Attorneys General have launched a coalition to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for their decades of deep deception, according to 350.org.

“Around the world, those who have done the least to contribute bear the brunt of the worst effects of climate change. From Pakistan and the Philippines, to New Orleans and New York, climate change threatens the lives of frontline communities every day by actively making our planet uninhabitable,” said Sarah Jacqz, an organizer with Divest UMass. “Any action on climate is undermined if our institutions continue to invest in this violent industry.It is high time that our institutions do everything in their power to tackle the climate crisis — that starts with divesting from fossil fuels.”

To date, more than 500 institutions representing more than $3.4 trillion in assets under management have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment.

For the student activists involved in the divestment campaign, personal ties to the fossil fuel industry among their school’s decision-makers pose disturbing conflicts of interest.

“We have made our choice clear, and we choose to stand on the side of a just and stable future,” said Zaia. “Now, we’re demanding that our institutions of higher learning stand with us and make a choice: the future of a destructive, outdated and rogue industry or the future of your students?”


At Paris climate change summit, mayors call for divestment

A group of mayors from around the world issued a letter this week calling on other cities to divest from fossil fuels in order to support the transition to renewable energy.

The letter contains signatures from mayors of Portland, Oregon; Bristol City, UK; Moreland City, Australia; Boxtel, the Netherlands; Santa Monica, California; and more.

“Mayors have a vital role to play in the transition to a new energy economy. It is time we invest in supporting our communities instead of destroying our climate. Please join us and divest from fossil fuels,” the letter states.

In 2013, Seattle became the first city to commit to divesting, followed by Canberra, the first national capital to join the movement. A growing number of cities and local governments have joined the divestment campaign in the lead up to the Paris Climate Talks.

“Cities know firsthand the problems brought about by fossil fuels, from urban air pollution to rising seas,” said 350.org Executive Director, May Boeve. “They’re also seeing the opportunity for reinvestment–the money they take out of companies like ExxonMobil can be then invested in companies that are creating green jobs in their community. These cities are helping move the divest-invest discussion into the realm of public policy, setting an example for state and national governments as they do.”

On Dec. 3, 350.org announced that 20 French cities, including Paris, Dijon and Bordeaux, had endorsed fossil fuel divestment.

In the last few months, major cities like Oslo, Melbourne and Munster have also joined the campaign.

Overall, more than 50 cities around the world have passed some form of divestment commitment, with many more campaigns underway. Total divestment commitments have surged to over 500 institutions representing $3.4 trillion in assets.

“In the lead up to the COP21 Climate Summit for Local Leaders in Paris, we, as concerned mayors and municipalities representatives, are calling on our colleagues to follow our steps and divest their city’s assets away from fossil fuels,” the mayors wrote. “Through divestment, we have accelerated the transition to a sustainable future, we urge you to follow this path.”

Signed by…

Mark Mark Buijs – Mayor of Boxtel, the Netherlands
Councilman Seth Yurdin, Providence, RI, USA
Kitty Piercy, Mayor of Eugene, Oregon, USA
George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol City, UK
Kevin McKeown, Mayor of Santa Monica, CA USA
Thomas Donegan, Chair, Board Of Selectmen, Provincetown, MA, USA
Brad Pettit, Mayor, City of Fremantle, Australia
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, Mayor of the City of Melbourne, Australia
Charlie Hales, Mayor of Portland, Oregon, USA
Samantha Ratnam, Councilor, Moreland City Australia
Raymond Johansen, Governing Mayor of Oslo, Norway
Councillor Robert Dryden, Mayor of Cambridge, UK

Over the barrel: Activists champion 
efforts to divest from fossil-fuel industry

Meet Planet Enemy No. 1: The fossil-fuel industry.

And meet the new sheriff in town: The growing movement to divest ownership of fossil-fuel stock.

The divestment concept is not without precedent. In the 1980s, people around the world withdrew support from companies — and more than a few artists — who did business with South Africa. The campaign spread from college campuses and eventually 155 campuses, 80 municipalities, 25 states and 19 nations took economic action against the apartheid regime. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said the end of apartheid would not have come without international pressure, specifically “the divestment movement of the 1980s.”

Today, the Nobel Peace-Prize winner has called for an “anti-apartheid style boycott of the fossil fuel industry.” 

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also endorsed the movement in a speech in May at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

“The scientific data on climate change is overwhelming, the experience of the affected overpowering. The few who still deny the science and argue for inaction of course have the right to hide their face in the sand, but the sand is warming rapidly, and they will soon have to face their children,” Figueres said.

She had praise for others: the institutional investors moving capital away from fossil fuels, the parties involved in the development of a “fossil free” investment index, the creation of a global finance lab in London and the activists in the campus and church campaigns driving divestment from fossil fuel assets. 

Commitments to change

That movement, according to GoFossilFree.org, has resulted in commitments to the going fossil-free campaign from 11 colleges and universities, 37 faith-based groups, 26 foundations, two counties and 28 cities. Included on the commitment list are the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee; Dane County, believed to be the first county in the United States to support the fossil-fuel movement; and Bayfield and Madison, among the first cities in the U.S. to adopt divestment resolutions.

Monona could join the league. The city sustainability committee unanimously approved a proposed resolution earlier this month that the city council is expected to take up this summer. The resolution, which doesn’t go as far as activists had hoped, would set as priorities the reduction of fossil-fuel consumption in municipal operations and the education of residents and business owners about “the importance of reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuels.” The resolution also suggests a variety of ways to work toward that goal,” including shareholder advocacy, fossil fuels divestment and reinvestment in renewable energy.

“I’m very proud of Monona for taking this step to not only acknowledge the reality of climate change but to take action on reducing its own fossil fuel use,” stated Monona resident Beth Esser. She’s co-coordinator of 350 Madison, an environmental action group at the forefront of the movement in the state. 

Esser added, “This resolution solidifies the city’s commitment to addressing the harsh realities of our need to quit using fossil fuels if we want to preserve a livable future for our children and our grandchildren.”

Fossil-free advocates also are campaigning throughout the University of Wisconsin system, on the campuses of private schools such as Carthage College and Lawrence University, and for changes in the state retirement fund.

Campaigners in some cases want a pledge that institutions or foundations will freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel assets and divest within five years. Others are promoting resolutions to support the cause, which received a nod from President Barack Obama in mid-June, when he told graduates at the University of California-Irvine, “You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms.”

Do the math

Divestment advocates maintain that math is crucial to the argument for going fossil free. The fossil fuel industry has enough coal, oil and gas reserves to produce, if burned, 2,795 gigatons of CO2, according to the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts. That’s five times more CO2 than can be released to maintain 2 degrees of warming. And most governments agree that any warming above 2 degrees Celsius would be unsafe.

“The fossil-fuel industry’s business model is built on using up reserves that should not be used. We cannot invest in this recklessness,” said Gregory Ercherd, who is involved in the fossil-free movement in Portland, Oregon. “We have moral, ethical obligations to divest from fossil fuels.”

“And we have a spiritual obligation,” added Ercherd, observing the surge in support for the movement this summer among religious institutions. The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly voted to divest. The University of Dayton in Ohio became the first Catholic institution to join the movement. Quaker, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Episcopal denominations have voted to divest. And, in early July, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of more than 300 churches in 150 countries, endorsed divestment.

“This is a remarkable moment for the 590 million Christians in its member denominations: a huge percentage of humanity says today ‘this far and no further,’” McKibben said after the vote.

Serene Jones is president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, which is committed to divesting its $108.4 endowment of fossil fuel funds. She said earlier this month, “Scripture tells us that all of the world is God’s precious creation, and our place within it is to care for and respect the health of the whole. As a seminary dedicated to social justice, we have a critical call to live out our values in the world. Climate change poses a catastrophic threat, and as stewards of God’s creation we simply must act.”

Portfolio for the planet

“There’s no threat greater than the unchecked burning of fossil fuels,” according to Bill McKibben, leader of the environmental grassroots movement known as 350.org.

 “The (fossil-fuel) industry alone, holds the power to change the physics and chemistry of our planet, and they’re planning to use it,” he wrote.

Earlier this year, 350.org and two asset management firms — Green Century Capital Management and Trillium Asset Management — released a guide people through divesting.

“Since fossil fuel corporations are determined to burn their carbon reserves, which are five times the amount that scientists say our planet can safely absorb, there is a growing concern that investors may face a ‘carbon-bubble’ if carbon restrictions are put into place,” said Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capital. “With so many unknowns in the future, why not avoid the widely reported possible risk of stranded assets?”

“Actions taken by individuals and municipalities to transition away from fossil fuels send an important message to industry and political leaders and encourage further efforts regionally nationally,” said Adam Gundlach, a Monona resident and fossil-free advocate. “The transition becomes a reality with each decision we make and each step we take toward a sustainable existence.”

On the Web…

350.org: http://350.org

GoFossilFree: http://gofossilfree.org

350 Madison: http://350madison.wordpress.com

Green Century: http://greencentury.com 

Fossil-free faq

WHAT IS DIVESTMENT? It is the opposite of an investment. It is getting rids of stocks, bonds, investment funds.

WHAT DOES THE DIVESTMENT MOVEMENT WANT? For institutional leaders to freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies and to divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities.

HOW CAN DIVESTING IMPACT MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR COMPANIES? The top 500 university endowments hold nearly $400 billion. Plus, there are state pension funds, as well as investments from churches, synagogues and mosques.

INVESTING IS ABOUT MAKING MONEY. IS DIVESTING RISKY? Fossil fuel companies, presently, are extremely profitable. But they also can be risky investments — energy markets are volatile and their business models rest on emitting more carbon into the atmosphere than civilization can handle.

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Monona City Council to vote on climate change, divestment resolution

Monona’s Sustainability Committee has unanimously approved a proposed resolution — “City of Monona Supports Practices That Reduce Monona’s Dependence on Fossil Fuels” — acknowledging that climate change exists, conceding that climate change is primarily caused by burning fossil fuels and establishing priorities for addressing the threat.

The proposed resolution would make reducing the consumption of fossil fuels in the Wisconsin city’s operations and in the operations of its vendors a priority, according to a news release from 350 Madison on July 11. The measure also would establish “a priority to educate the residents and business owners of Monona about the importance of reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuels and suggest a variety of ways they can work toward that goal.” These include fossil fuel divestment, reinvestment in renewable energy and shareholder advocacy.

The committee approved the resolution on June 19 and introduced it to the city council on July 7. The council could vote on the resolution on July 21 or Aug. 4.

“I’m very proud of Monona for taking this step to not only acknowledge the reality of climate change but to take action on reducing its own fossil fuel use,” said Beth Esser, a Monona resident and co-coordinator of 350 Madison. “The city has established itself as a leader in renewable energy with its recent solar panel installation on four municipal buildings. This resolution solidifies the city’s commitment to addressing the harsh realities of our need to quit using fossil fuels if we want to preserve a livable future for our children and grandchildren.”

350 Madison is a local group working to address climate change.

Esser and other 350 Madison members say the city’s efforts to educate citizens and businesses on the tactics of divestment, reinvestment and shareholder advocacy will be especially important.

“The time has come for national and international legislation to address fossil fuel use and speed up our transition to an infrastructure based on renewable energy,” said Adam Gundlach, a Monona resident and advocate of the resolution. “Actions taken by individuals and municipalities to transition away from fossil fuels send an important message to industry and political leaders, and encourage further efforts regionally and nationally. The transition becomes reality with each decision we make and each step we take toward a sustainable existence.”

The fossil fuel divestment movement follows successful divestment movements of the past, such as the South African apartheid divestment movement.

Scientists have stated that the continued burning of fossil fuels will be catastrophic for human life because of rising CO2 levels and increasing global temperature.

The goal of the divestment movement is to stigmatize the fossil fuel companies and create political pressure on governments to pass carbon-restrictive legislation. Environmentalists and economists alike are supportive of fossil fuel divestment, as, when the true price of carbon emissions is realized, the continued investment in fossil fuels is not only environmentally risky, but also financially risky.

University of Dayton becomes 1st Catholic school to divest from fossil fuels

The University of Dayton, a leading Catholic university and the largest private university in Ohio, is divesting its $670 million endowment from fossil fuels.

Bill McKibben, co-founder of the environmental action group 350.org, had praise for the decision: “Earlier this year, Pope Francis said ‘if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us. It’s very good news to see Catholic institutions starting to put his wisdom into effective practice, and stand up to the powers that are trying to profit at the expense of all who depend on the proper working of this good earth.”

University President Daniel J. Curran said the decision was consistent with Catholic social teachings, the school’s Marianist values and a campuswide policy promoting sustainability initiatives. “We cannot ignore the negative consequences of climate change, which disproportionately impact the world’s most vulnerable people,” Curran said earlier this month. “Our Marianist values of leadership and service to humanity call upon us to act on these principles and serve as a catalyst for civil discussion and positive change that benefits our planet.”

The university is the first major Catholic institution to join the divestment campaign and, at $670 million, the largest endowment yet to fully divest from the 200 fossil fuel companies that hold the largest coal, oil and gas reserves.

Stanford University recently divested its $18.7 billion endowment from coal companies, but is still considering divesting from oil and gas.

The University of Dayton’s divestment is planned to occur in phases. The university will initially eliminate fossil fuel holdings from its domestic equity accounts. The university then will develop plans to eliminate fossil fuel from international holdings, invest in green and sustainable technologies or holdings, and restrict future investments in private equity or hedge funds whose investments support fossil fuel or significant carbon-producing holdings.

Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, said, “We applaud the University of Dayton for taking this step as perhaps the first U.S. Catholic university to divest from fossil fuels. This is a complex issue, but Catholic higher education was founded to examine culture and find ways to advance the common good. Here is one way to lead as a good steward of God’s creation.”

The announcement came in the same month that President Barack Obama endorsed the growing divestment movement in a speech at the University of California-Irvine. There, the president told students, “You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms.”

More than a dozen universities or colleges have committed to fossil fuel divestment. So have more than 20 cities, 27 private foundations and more than 30 churches, congregations, or dioceses.