Tag Archives: Fossil fuel divestment

Tufts students stage sit-in to urge fossil fuel divestment

Repost from The Boston Globe
[Editor: For more on fossil fuel divestment, see 350.org and GoFossilFree.org.  See also The Daily Mail: “Hydrogen fuel breakthrough: Clean power generated WITHOUT relying on fossil fuels” – RS]

Tufts students stage sit-in to urge fossil fuel divestment

By Aneri Pattani, April 22, 2015
Students protested Tufts University’s fossil fuel investment at the president’s office. David L Ryan/Globe staff

Tufts University students and alumni entered the university president’s office Wednesday morning and began a sit-in, vowing to persist until the administration commits to fossil fuel divestment.

The protest began just before 9 a.m. when members of the student group Tufts Climate Action entered president Anthony Monaco’s office in Ballou Hall, said Shana Gallagher, chairwoman of the student group.

Gallagher, 20, said the group wants the university to commit to divesting its endowment from fossil fuel companies over a five-year period and freeze all new investments immediately.

“We are planning on staying here until we are given some commitments,” she said. “The president is out of town, but we will be right here waiting for him when he gets back.”

The sit-in at Tufts is the latest in a series of protests staged at Boston-area schools recently to urge fossil fuel divestment. Last week, a group of Harvard students and their supporters rallied in Harvard Yard.

Tufts issued a statement Wednesday saying it recognizes the diversity of opinions on the subject of divestment and welcomes continued discussion that is thoughtful and respectful.

“Tufts University is proud of its students’ active involvement in a wide range of issues,” the statement said. “However, it is important that the debate about divestment not overshadow the progress Tufts is making in support of environmental stewardship.”

The university said it has launched a new sustainability investment fund, has begun construction of a high-efficiency central energy plant, and is making new investments in recycling and waste-reduction programs.

For the 33 students, alumni, and local supporters involved in the sit-in, as well as numerous other students who participated in a divestment rally at noon, the efforts need to go further, Gallagher said.

“We are hoping to reopen that line of communication and make sure we can be working with the administration on the issue of fossil fuels,” she said.

Tufts executive vice president Patricia Campbell met with some members of the student group Wednesday morning after the sit-in began, Gallagher said. Another round of negotiations is scheduled for Thursday morning.

“This was the step we felt we had to take to initiate these negotiations,” Gallagher said.

The university determined last year that divestment “would have an immediate adverse impact on the educational experience at Tufts,” and it “would not be prudent to expose the university to that kind of risk at this time,” the university said in the statement.

The university said a group of students, trustees, faculty, and staff concluded that “divestment would likely result in a significant reduction in operating funds.”

“We will continue to examine the feasibility of divestment in the future,” the statement said.

Ben Weilerstein, 21, a member of Tufts Climate Action, said he thought the protest was a necessary step to bring attention to the role of fossil fuels in causing climate change.

“This is important because Tufts has millions of dollars invested in an industry that is destroying communities across the world,” he said.

Norwegian oil fund – partial divestment in fossil fuels, billions of dollars in assets

Repost from Fossil Free – Divest from Fossil Fuels.

Norway’s divestment is great news. But this is the last moment to be complacent.

By Tim Ratcliffe February 6, 2015

oil fundToday’s news that the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth (oil)  Fund has divested from a total of 22 companies, potentially totaling billions of dollars in assets, is a huge win for the rapidly growing divestment campaign and should be celebrated. In fact, in terms of amount of money it is likely the biggest divestment decision to date, so reason to be optimistic that this rapidly growing campaign is having a serious impact.

But once the celebrating is over, there’s no time to sit back.  Now is the time to push. In the words of Naomi Klein, acclaimed author and journalist, regarding the implications of the falling oil price, “We’re in a much better situation to win but we need to understand that this is a window. This is the last moment to be complacent.”

This has been reiterated in recent publications by both the Economist and Deutsche Bank. The reality is that most of the carbon in our already proven reserves must stay in the ground and that legislation to ensure that this is the case is just around the corner. Now is the time to demand big changes.

The Norwegian oil fund still invests in well over 100 fossil fuel companies with assets totalling around $40bn, and total reserves representing well over 500gt CO2 if burnt. Enough to take the world soaring past a 2 degree target and any chance of stopping dangerous changes to the climate system.

“I see this as a “counter-move” from Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), the group that oversees investments by the fund, to the growing pressure from divestment, where they try to demonstrate to politicians that they can do OK without stricter political mandates,” suggests Truls Gulowsen, campaigner with Greenpeace Norway. “It is still up to Parliament to instruct the Fund to complete full fossil fuel divestment, as the Fund still has billions in coal, oil and tar sands investments. This decision is scheduled for May this year, so maximum pressure on Norway is needed.”

Global Divestment Day next week, 13 and 14 February comes at the perfect time to increase the pressure on institutions such as the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth fund to commit to full divest from fossil fuels.

Keep up the hard work. It’s paying off!

Palo Alto passes fossil fuel divestment resolution

Press Release from Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action (PICA)

Interfaith Victory: Palo Alto Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution Passed

PALO ALTO, CA — February 9, 2014.

The City of Palo Alto, responding to concerns from Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action (PICA), voted unanimously to send a message to CalPERS (California Statement Employee Retirement System), the national’s largest pension fund, to pull its investments out of fossil fuels.

Councilmembers Marc Berman, Patrick Burt, Karen Holman and Liz Kniss submitted the initial “Colleague’s Memo” in favor of divestment. “Climate change poses a top-tier threat to our future. Our obligation to address climate change through all avenues requires support from all sectors,” noted Council member Cory Wolbach. “I was inspired to see the passionate and effective work of these congregations collecting 152 signed letters on behalf of fossil fuel divestment.  Those letters, presented by a cross-denominational coalition, sent a very powerful moral statement.”

Eileen Altman is an associate minister at First Congregational Church in Palo Alto and a PICA member who spoke at the City Council meeting. “As Christians, we share a core set of values and concern for God’s gift of life, both human and all other life. Our investments should reflect our values.” said Rev. Altman. “This concern is not a liberal or conservative value, but is a Christian value. The US political system unproductively magnifies differences when Americans everywhere share 98% of the same values. Climate is about the future of our children and is especially about the people who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Climate is the biggest social justice issue of our time. From the pews in Palo Alto and throughout the United Church of Christ, the first denomination to pass a resolution to move toward divestment from fossil fuels (in 2013), we welcome the opportunity to respectfully dialogue about climate with churches in all regions of the country and across all party affiliations.”

While the call for fossil fuel divestment may have its strongest impact as a symbolic statement, it also has practical implications for the economic value of employee pensions, explained Debbie Mytels, convener of PICA, which comprises a dozen local congregations that submitted signed letters to the Council in favor of the divestment resolution.

“While we believe it’s a moral obligation to stop using the fossil fuels that are causing sea level rise, extreme weather events and drought-related crop losses,” Mytels said, “it’s also important to question how long investments in these companies will be financially valuable.”

“If we want to protect our employees’ pensions, we need to get CalPERS to pull out of dirty fuels before they become ‘stranded assets’.” said Mytels, citing a recent statement by Deutsche Bank in Germany that said  “to meet climate change targets, over half of identified fossil fuel reserves will have to stay in the ground.”

“While we are pleased with Palo Alto’s progress in becoming a city that supplies ‘carbon free’ electricity to its utility customers,” Mytels said, “we feel it’s time for our city to demonstrate further leadership by joining the call for divestment.”

“Thankfully, Palo Alto itself does not own any investment in fossil fuels of any sort — that’s all the more reason for the Council to consider the long-term safety of our employees’ CalPERS retirement assets,” she added.

Reverend Will Scott, from California Interfaith Power & Light (CIPL), noted that “CIPL and our growing statewide network of more than 640 congregations are grateful for the inspiring work of the Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action group, now a CIPL Regional Working Group. Their regular, committed, and personal engagement on the local level as people of diverse faiths concerned about the climate crisis, is a strong model for other regional working groups in our network. Indeed, they are exemplifying the sincere, collaborative, practical, rooted and creative community resiliency needed throughout the world to meet the seriousness of this global challenge. California Interfaith Power & Light is learning much from PICA’s practices and shared wisdom.”

Palo Alto now joins a growing group of California cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Brisbane, Richmond, Fairfax, and Santa Monica in calling for dropping fossil fuels from employee pension funds. Sunnyvale may be the next city. Other regional agencies, including the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which is mandated to protect Silicon Valley citizens from floods, have also passed similar resolutions due to concerns about sea level rise.

In advance of Global Divestment Day, Feb. 13, 2015, Norway announced last week that it would drop coal and tar sands companies from its national investment portfolio. Similarly, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has made such a decision, along with 50 other philanthropic organizations. The divestment movement is also growing significantly among national faith-based groups, and nearby Stanford University has agreed to eliminate its holdings in coal companies. Today, California State Senate President Kevin de Leon introduced SB 185, directing CalPERs to divest coal fossil fuel investments.

For more information about PICA, see http://www.interfaithpower.org/pica and http://pica.nationbuilder.com/

City of Palo Alto Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution.

The Palo Alto City Council voted unanimously in favor of divestment:  https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B9dpI7FCQAAfghe.jpg

PICA members celebrate: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B9dpI7JCIAAsuEF.jpg

For more information about the international fossil fuel divestment movement, see http://gofossilfree.org/


Exxon Blasts Movement to Divest From Fossil Fuels

Repost from The National Journal

Exxon Blasts Movement to Divest From Fossil Fuels

The oil giant seeks to counter the campaign that urges investors to dump stock in petroleum and coal companies.
By Ben Geman, October 13, 2014

Exxon Mobil is wielding its public relations might against the fossil-fuel divestment movement, signaling that climate-change activists have struck a nerve at the world’s biggest publicly traded oil and gas company.

Exxon Mobil’s blog, titled “Perspectives,” posted a lengthy attack Friday about the divestment movement, which urges universities, churches, pension funds, and other big institutional investors to dump their shares of oil and coal companies as part of the fight against global warming.

But the blog post calls the movement “out of step with reality,” saying it’s at odds with the need for poor nations to gain better access to energy, as well as the need for fossil fuels to meet global energy demand for decades to come.

So far, the climate advocates’ progress at getting a growing number of institutions to shed holdings in fossil fuel companies remains pretty small compared with the scale of the industry they’re battling.

Consider that the roughly 1,700 oil-and-gas and coal companies listed on stock exchanges are worth nearly $5 trillion, notes the research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

But the divestment movement has been growing– just last week the University of Glasgow became the first European university to announce divestment plans. And the movement also has a number of high-profile adherents, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel Prize-winning anti-apartheid leader. (The fossil fuel divestment movement takes its cues from the 1970s and 1980s movement urging divestment from apartheid South Africa.)

Another supporter is Christiana Figueres, the United Nations official shepherding international negotiations aimed at reaching a new global climate pact in late 2015.

But Exxon calls divestment a misplaced solution to climate change.

“Divestment represents a diversion from the real search for technological solutions to managing climate risks that energy companies like ours are pursuing,” writes Ken Cohen, Exxon’s VP for public and government affairs.

Cohen’s post argues that the movement ignores the scale of global energy demand for power, transportation, and other needs, as well as “the inability of current renewable technologies to meet it.”

“Almost every place on the planet where there is grinding poverty, there is also energy poverty. Wherever there is subsistence living, it is usually because there is little or no access to modern, reliable forms of energy,” Cohen writes.

Divestment advocates will find plenty of material to argue about in Exxon’s post. In one case, Exxon cites estimates that renewable energy’s share of the total global mix will be about 15 percent in 2040.

But the activists pushing for divestment, such as Bill McKibben’s 350.org, advocate for more aggressive policies that promote low-carbon energy, and analysts say that would change the global mix a lot more and a lot faster.

While the International Energy Agency has forecast that without policy changes, renewables will meet about 15 percent of total energy needs in 2035, IEA and other agencies have also modeled various other scenarios in which low-carbon energy takes a far larger share.

For instance, in late September, IEA released a “roadmap” of policies explaining how solar power alone could become the world’s biggest source of electricity by 2050 or even earlier.

Divestment advocates have already criticized Exxon’s post.

“This is the oil industry saying ‘please don’t be mean to me’ after bullying vulnerable communities around the globe for decades,” said Anastasia Schemkes, a campaign representative with the Sierra Student Coalition.

Reverend Fletcher Harper, executive director of the pro-divestment group GreenFaith, took issue with Exxon’s assertions that the divestment movement is out of touch. “Divestment advocates have been clear from the start that the divestment campaign is about calling into question the industry’s ‘social license’ to operate. In this regard, divestment is a highly appropriate debate, and highly reality-based,” he said in an email.

Harper also said that advocates agree with the imperative of bringing energy to nations where access is now lacking. “I believe that these energy needs must be met, to the greatest degree possible, with clean, renewable energy. The [Exxon] blog post does not reckon with the fact that coal, oil, and gas combustion are responsible for a large number of deaths annually worldwide,” Harper said.

It’s not the first time Exxon has tussled with divestment advocates.

In response to shareholder activists, Exxon released a report in late March that rebuts advocates’ claims that its fossil fuel reserves are at risk of becoming “stranded assets” in a carbon-constrained world.