Fossil fuel divestment

Good News: Members of Brandeis Climate Justice (BCJ) and FACT gave a presentation to the Brandeis Board of Trustees on January 31st, 2018. You can read about it in the student papers here: The Justice and The Hoot.

The Justice article mentions a faculty vote that was actually a vote not within FACT, but at the university faculty meeting which approved the Climate Change Resolution on October 20, 2017 with 66 voting in favor, 2 against, and 2 abstaining. It was inspired by President Liebowitz’ decision to sign on to the Paris Agreement on June 1, 2017.

The rationale for fossil fuel divestment is explained well in the Brandeis divestment committee’s report:

Letter from the committee

Fossil Fuel Divestment Report

Brandeis Brandeis Fossil Fuel Divestment Faculty Petition (1).

If you are a Brandeis student, join the Brandeis Climate Justice group.

Arguments in favor of fossil fuel divestment

HSBC Advises Clients Against Fossil Fuel Investment

Good summary of ‘myths about fossil fuel divestment’ in Jan 2015 Rolling Stone MagazineThe Logic of Divestment

Union of Concerned Scientists.

Oxford University Study on divestment.

Article from the Huffington post.

Limits to shareholder activism.‘s Fossilfree resources.

Debate about Fossil Fuel Divestment at MIT April 9, 2015.

Addressing Counterarguments to Fossil Fuel Divestment

Jeremy Grantham The Mythical Peril of Divesting from Fossil fuels.

A few responses to the most frequently raised arguments against fossil fuel divestment:

1. The fossil fuel companies are only extracting oil and gas because we all need to use it.

Answer: Yes, we are all using fossil fuels. We cannot help it, having grown up in an economic system that is based on fossil fuel extraction. But now we know we must change it. Fossil fuel companies know that, too. Yet they hinder the transition to green renewable fuels by blocking regulation and a carbon tax, and by funding climate change denial. At this point we have no choice but to use fossil fuels, because the fossil fuel companies are not allowing alternatives to flourish (see their attempts to block solar projects and net metering, or Bill Koch’s lawsuits against Cape Wind). And although we know that we must stop fossil fuel emissions, and we already have three times the amount on reserve that can be safely burnt, the fossil fuel industry is spending billions every year on exploring new sources that they intend to realize.

2.  Removing our investments from fossil fuels will hurt our endowment.

Answer: There are several studies that show that fossil fuel free portfolios perform equally well if not better than those with fossil fuels. Everyone agrees that the most effective tool to curb carbon emissions is putting a price on carbon. Once carbon is priced realistically fossil fuel investments will lose their value and become stranded assets. This is called the carbon bubble, and our endowment will be safer if we invest in the future instead.

3. Fossil Fuel Divestment won’t stop climate change. Others will buy up the shares. It is a waste of time.

Answer: Divestment is a political tool. Its goal is to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry and destroy its political power by undermining its legitimacy. Initially, the fossil fuel industry laughed at the fossil fuel divestment movement. Nobody took it seriously. This has changed. It is the fastest growing divestment movement in history, and the industry is now paying attention.

Oxford University has published a very helpful study on fossil fuel divestment.

Arabella Advisors: The Global Fossil Fuel Divestment and Clean Energy Investment Movement (2018 Report).