Commend University for Divesting from Dirty Coal

Target: Stanford University President John Hennessy

Goal: Thank Stanford University for leading the charge on campus fossil fuel divestment

Stanford University has become the first major university to answer the nationwide call of climate activists to purge all endowments and pension funds of fossil fuel investments. The Board of Trustees recently announced that it will remove any companies whose principal business is coal from the university’s $18 billion endowment portfolio. This decision covers about 100 companies around the globe that derive the majority of their revenue from coal extraction.

The divestment movement on campus was started by a student group called Fossil Free Stanford and taken up by the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing. In making its recommendation, the Panel referenced an internal guideline that instructs trustees to judge whether “corporate policies or practices create substantial social injury” when making investment decisions. In its statement, the panel noted that electricity produced from coal releases more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy generated than any other fossil fuel, and also that there are many readily available alternatives to coal.

The university is walking the sustainability walk in other ways too. As a major research university, Stanford has a number of centers focused on renewable energy and environmental research, and several faculty members have been involved with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The university is also in the process of implementing a new energy system called Stanford Energy System Innovations, which aims to reduce campus carbon emissions by 50 percent and water use by 15 percent.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is calling the divestment initiative a potential game-changer, as the student-led divestment movement is now active at around 300 universities nationwide. This move has already prompted a number of other schools to begin looking at their own endowments with an eye toward socially responsible investing. Thank Stanford for being a leader in sustainability in higher education.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Hennessy,

Global climate change is the defining challenge of our time. Fossil fuel companies have squandered their chance to remake themselves as sustainable energy companies and bring their significant profits and influence to bear on finding carbon-friendly alternatives. Instead of working with us to find solutions, they have become part of the problem.

As corporations dawdle and governments pander, it is important that our institutions of higher learning step up and take a stand against profit-fueled apathy and state-sponsored ignorance. With enough support, divestment has the power to significantly limit the influence of the fossil fuel industry on our economy and our politics. Thank you for leading the charge on campus fossil fuel divestment.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Arnold Paul via Wikimedia Commons

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