Divestment is the opposite of investment. The strategy was used to rein in tobacco companies, to dismantle apartheid in South Africa and now is being employed to weaken the fossil fuel industry. Instigated in 2011 by college students, the divestment from fossil fuels movement has now gained global momentum; inspiring not only colleges, but retirement funds, medical institutions, cities, individuals and even countries to commit to divestment. As of December 2016, 688 institutions have divested over five trillion dollars from fossil fuels (according to Arabella Advisors).
Lewis & Clark Divest Fossil Fuels is calling on the college to divest its endowment from fossil fuels. In order to truly be the green school it promotes itself as, LC needs to be part of this global movement. Oregon State University, Pitzer College and Swarthmore College, among many others, have all committed to divestment. So have one quarter of all universities in the U.K., and others across Europe, New Zealand and Australia (according to The Guardian). So why is LC — a pioneer of sustainability and an institution with a “public conscience” — missing the boat on divestment?
There are many reasons why divestment is important.
An Environmental Argument for Divestment:
Climate scientists agree that record breaking weather events are being caused by increases in global temperatures. These temperature increases have largely been the result of carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. 60-80 percent of the existing coal, oil and gas reserves should be left unburned in order to limit global warming to less than 2°C, as signed in the Paris Climate Agreement. Anything above this threshold drastically increases the risks of more climate disasters.
An Economic Argument for Divestment:
Fiduciaries around the world are already second-guessing the reliability of fossil fuel investments for multiple reasons. One being that these companies are overvaluing their assets because they are not taking into account the risks of climate change and the fact that 60-80 percent of fossil fuels should be left unburned. These unusable assets, known as “stranded assets,” contribute to the overvaluing of fossil fuel companies. Not to mention the fact that oil and gas prices themselves are unreliable due to their fluctuations. It is unreasonable to argue that fossil fuel investment is a stable choice for LC’s endowment because stability is its most questionable trait.
A Political Argument for Divestment:
With president Donald Trump declaring he will withdraw the U.S. from the 2016 Paris Agreement, there is even more urgency to pressure U.S. institutions to divest. When the appointed head of the EPA, Scott Pruit, denies climate change, it is imperative that U.S. institutions carry the slack and hold the U.S. accountable for its carbon emissions.
To sign the petition asking for our college to divest from fossil fuels Google “Lewis and Clark Go Fossil Free.”
Evelyn Hunsberger is a member of SEED. This statement was submitted on behalf of SEED.
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