On Jan. 24, DU’s Board of Trustees voted “no” on divestment based on the recommendation from the task force created by the Board of Trustees specifically for this issue. According to an email sent from administration, they concluded that “divestment in fossil fuel companies…would not be an effective means of mitigating global warming.”
To begin, I appreciate the attention given to the issue by initiating the task force because it indicates a level of concern for students’ voices. However, I have to firmly disagree with the opinion that divestment would be ineffective in mitigating climate change. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fossil fuels are the number one contributor to climate change, and the investments in the industry reinforce their incentive to continue to drill new reserves and burning oil and gas.
Although DU enacted important steps through the Sustainability Committee (SUSCOM) and the Center for Sustainability, such as the energy competition and Zero Waste, those are only on a campus scale. To globally reduce climate change, we need big movements, commitments and policy changes. If college campuses pledge to divest, oil companies may finally take people seriously when they say that they want a shift in energy sources.
According to the International Energy Agency, 70 percent of energy investments are in fossil fuels. This includes extraction, transportation, transformation and construction of power plants. By divesting, fossil fuels produced and burned to create a cycle of environmental damage could be reduced. According to The Guardian, if we took the one percent of GDP that is used to find and exploit new fossil fuel resources, we could completely transition to clean energy.
Another consideration from the administration’s email is DU’s “purpose to provide enduring benefit to present and future students, faculty [and] staff.” I respect and understand the financial concern for students and faculty. However, there are countless thriving companies with a far lower carbon footprint, such as the American International Group (who writes environmental policy) and General Electric (producer of clean energy).
The student organization Divest DU released a response on Feb. 1 stating that “the wealthiest nations fuel climate change while marginalized peoples who have contributed least…feel its burdens the heaviest…the sheer magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis forces us to reexamine all parts of our personal and collective responsibility.”
Divestment has already appeared across America and across the world with commitments from Boston University, Georgetown University, Stanford University, University of Maryland, Yale University and the list continues with at least partial divestments.
The countless university commitments are representations that they will devote time to finding sustainable alternatives to investing in fossil fuels because they reognize that divesting is a crucial step to better the planet.
If we expect to be a leading institution, commitment to sustainability has to play a major role in that. Climate change is the most threatening and severe issue and although it doesn’t present itself immediately, it will very much so impact our future if we don’t start making significant strides.