U-Divest urges the Board of Trustees to divest from fossil fuels: Organization questions school’s investment in fuel companies

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By Song My Hoang

U-Divest, a new student-run organization that is committed to the prevention of global climate change, held its first event on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22.

U-Divest sent a letter to Union’s Board of Trustees to fulfill Strategy F3.6 in the 2013 Strategic Plan by moving Union’s endowment out of fossil fuel companies.

U-Divest volunteers and organizers collected signatures in support of the letter outside of the Union hockey games on Friday and Saturday.

Strategy F3.6 expresses Union’s commitment to fighting global climate change.

It states, “Union is a higher education leader committed to reducing its environmental footprint. In our Climate Action Plan, Union pledged to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2060. Many steps have been taken to increase the overall energy efficiency of the campus and we should celebrate these successes, but we need to do more to achieve climate neutrality.”

Communications Director of U-Divest Zachary Jonas ’14 explained that U-Divest calls on the Board of Trustees to freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies and to divest within five years from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel’s public equities and corporate bonds.

Jonas commented, “U-Divest is trying to hold Union accountable for its promise in strategy F3.6. How will Union eliminate greenhouse gas emissions when its $322 million endowment is invested in fossil fuel companies, which are the major source of greenhouse gas emissions?”

He explained that U-Divest was initiated by a coalition of students who were concerned about the effects of climate change.

These students came together over the past year and decided that one of the most effective ways to combat the adverse effects of global climate change is to implement changes at Union.

U-Divest has a broad support from students, faculty and administrators in the Union community, as well as a wide support from the local community.

Within a week, U-Divest collected 160 signatures from the Union community to support its letter to the Board of Trustees.

U-Divest currently consists of nine full-time organizers and various student volunteers and supporters.

The Executive Director of the U-Divest campaign is Rachel Ross ’14.

There have been similar divestment campaigns implemented in other colleges, cities, religious institutions and foundations.

Examples include: Hampshire College, the College of the Atlantic, the city of Ithaca, the city of San Francisco, the city of Ann Arbor and the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.

Divestment campaigns have become a strategy for social change in response to global climate change. Divestment is the opposite of investment, in which colleges, cities, religious institutions and foundations urge the community to stop investing in fossil fuels.

U-Divest’s mission is to preserve the quality of life for current and future generations worldwide by urging the Board of Trustees to join the growing movement that is committed to global climate change prevention.

Jonas added, “Climate change is accelerating. We witness the increasing impacts of a warming planet on a daily basis.

“Experts agree that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to global warming, which will continue to induce and intensify tragic climate disasters,” he continued.

Jonas explained that U-Divest considers Union’s divestment from fossil fuel companies as a financially sound decision and a source of pride for current and prospective students, faculty and alumni.

“By taking this action, we, as Union College, will show the world that we will not stand for this rampant abuse of natural resources,” asserted Jonas.

Jonas stated that U-Divest could make a huge impact on the community.

He claimed, “Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and serious. The economic and social effects of climate change are tangible and dangerous.

“If we’re going to fight the effects of climate change and be responsible members of the global community, then we have to act now by halting our support for fossil fuel companies that are major contributors to climate change,” Jonas continued.

U-Divest’s organizers, volunteers and supporters will be speaking with their fellow students, administrators, faculty and other individuals in the local community to hold Union accountable for its goal in section F3.6 of the Strategic Plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.

U-Divest will continue to go door-to-door and classroom-to-classroom in the upcoming months to spread the word about the campaign and to fight the effects of climate change at Union.

Jonas concluded, “We want Union to join the growing movement of groups around the country that are divesting from fossil fuels because, together, we can send the message that we will not tolerate the abuse of natural resources.”

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