My View: Reed Trustees Must Divest from Fossil Fuels

Reed College’s Board of Trustees recently published its official rejection of Fossil Free Reed’s petition to divest the college endowment of fossil fuels (Reed College won’t divest fossil fuel holdings, web story, July 17).

Divestment, the act of selling financial holdings in a company or group of companies, historically has been used as a powerful tool — such as in the case of ending South African apartheid — to affect major systemic change.

We, the students and alumni that form the group Fossil Free Reed, are disappointed that the trustees’ formal response seems to ignore the months of discussion that have taken place, fails to meaningfully respond to many of the issues raised in our original letter demanding divestment (published in early February; see reedquest.org) and does not engage with our counterpoints to trustee concerns raised in two meetings between Fossil Free Reed and the trustees. Read more

Divestment is about stigmatizing fossil fuel companies

An Oregonian op-ed authored by 350PDX chair, Adriana Voss-Andreae, and divestment coordinator, Sandy Polishuk.

Reed students meets with Board of Trustees for divestment

On February 7th, students from the group Fossil Free Reed met with the Board of Trustees, presenting the case that fossil fuel investments run counter to the values that Reed espouses. In reply, the Board promised to give consideration to their proposal, as reported in the Portland Tribune.

Eugene City Council votes to begin divestment

On Monday, January 13th, the Eugene City Council unanimously voted to alter the city’s investment strategy, to divest of all Eugene’s holdings in fossil fuel companies! The initiative was brought to the council by Mayor Kitty Pierce.

Later that week, the OPB radio show Think Out Loud covered the legislation, which is available for listening here (after the jump), and on the OPB website.

 

Will you join us at G.R.O.W. Divestment: Portland?

This summer we are gearing up to G.R.O.W. Divestment in the Pacific Northwest!

WHAT: GROW Divestment: Portland
WHEN: Sunday July 28th, 1pm
WHERE: Portland, OR
YOU: Students, city divesters, environmental justice and climate activists, community members

Last month, in an exciting victory, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales committed the city to full fossil fuel divestment! However, in the fight for climate justice, we still have a lot of work to do. Numerous campaigns are pushing local institutions, colleges, churches, and the State of Oregon to follow suit and drop their holdings in the fossil fuel industry. Furthermore, as Big Coal, Oil, and Gas are making moves to turn the Northwest into a dirty energy export corridor, communities across the region are organizing to protect our home from their dangerous plans. If we want to keep building a truly dynamic movement for climate justice, we must bind these struggles together as we fight the fossil fuel industry.

That’s why on July 28th, the day after attending the Summer Heat: Columbia River Climate Action we’re bringing together students, community members, and climate activists for a GROW Divestment meet-up. These meet-ups will be happening in partnership with major actions against dirty energy happening across the country. Participants will engage in a day of trainings focused around fossil fuel divestment, coalition-building, and forming regional networks for collaboration around climate justice.

This summer, GROW Divestment hopes to connect students working on fossil fuel divestment with the work of communities on the frontlines of resistance to fossil fuel extraction. We believe that these meet-ups will provide an opportunity for many different groups and individuals within the climate movement to be together in one space to talk about ways we can support each other’s work in fighting for a just and sustainable future!

Sign up today!

Or for more information, contact toricole@lclark.edu.

Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler addresses divestment

Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler, speaking on Think Out Loud on June 27th, fielded a question from 350 PDX’s own Victoria Leary on the potential for divesting the state from fossil fuels. He discussed the intracies of working with Oregon’s $80 billion worth of investments, many of which are in mutual funds and indexes. But the market is moving towards renewable energy, and Wheeler, who as Multnomah County Chair helped put together the 2009 Climate Action Plan, supports moving into these investments.

Listen to the segment

Fossil fuel divestment is vital for our climate

Today, president Obama outlined his long-awaited strategy to deal with climate change, an array of ambitious goals including cutting carbon emissions, increasing usage of renewable power sources, and advancing efficiency in buildings and industry. He also called for American citizens to get more engaged in the fight against climate change, “Invest, divest, make yourself heard.”

350 PDX, the Portland, Oregon chapter of 350.org, an international grassroots campaign dedicated to solving the climate crisis, reacted to the President’s call for action. “We are very excited about the president’s plan. Already we have been working to highlight solutions locally that are responsible, both for our environment and our economy. With President Obama’s leadership, our nation has a new set of real, attainable goals to move forward towards a strong, clean energy economy,” responded 350 PDX organizer Kevin Fitzgerald. “As Portlanders who are committed to leaving a safe planet for future generations, we call upon our state to listen to our president and take bold action and immediately commit to shifting themselves away from stocks, bonds or investment funds that are tied to fossil fuels.”

Divestment from fossil fuels has long been seen as an ethical imperative, to build social pressure against fossil fuel companies’ continued extraction of carbon from the earth. Evidence is now growing that divestment is a smart choice in maintaining strong portfolios as well. Prior to the president’s speech, which called for the Environmental Protection Agency to set forth carbon emission regulations on existing power plants, stock prices for coal mining companies fell sharply.

In addition to promoting divestment from fossil fuels, 350 PDX is working to oppose planned coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest. In his speech today, President Obama says, “I’m calling for an end to public financing of new coal plants overseas.” In response, retired teacher and 350 PDX activist Bonnie McKinlay questions whether it makes sense for the Pacific Northwest to allow the transport of coal through the region. “Such transport is fraught with numerous health and environmental impacts and clearly doesn’t mesh with President Obama’s carbon reduction goals as defined in his speech today.”

According to Bill McKibben, one of the world’s leading Climate activists and founder of 350.org, the math is simple: we can emit roughly 500 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and remain below 2°Celsius of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Burning the fossil fuel that industries now have in their reserves would result in emitting over 2,700 gigatons of carbon dioxide – five times that amount.

350.org is named after what scientists say is the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. Our atmospheric concentration of CO2 recently passed the milestone of 400 parts per million and continues to rise at an alarming rate.

Oregon’s climate is already changing due to increased CO2 and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The average annual temperature rose by 1.5°F over the last century and changes in snowpack, streamflows, and forest cover are already occurring. Oregon faces the economic and emergency preparedness challenges brought on by more frequent extreme weather events, floods and forest wildfires, reduced supply of stream water vital to its agriculture and hydroelectric power plants, and challenges brought about by a rising and more acidified sea.

“Our president just sounded the alarm and gave us some hope,” commented 350 PDX activist, scientist and mother Adriana Voss-Andreae. “If we want to keep our planet and our region safe for our children, we must keep fossil fuels such as coal in the ground and stop investing in the very companies that are devastating our climate.”

Portland joins over a dozen US cities pursuing divestment

For immediate release

Portland’s in! Mayor Charlie Hales helps Portland join over a dozen US cities pursuing divestment from fossil fuels, urges state to follow suit

PORTLAND, OR—Just two hours after members of 350 PDX, the local chapter of Bill McKibben’s organization 350.org, urged the Portland City Council to divest any funds it may have tied to fossil fuel companies, Mayor Charlie Hales announced his support for fossil-fuel divestment in Portland and urged the state of Oregon to follow suit during a keynote speech for UN World Environment Day. This announcement adds Portland to a growing list of more than a dozen US cities committed to total divestment over the next five years.

350 PDX was delighted by the news after having worked hard over the past few months on building momentum for divestment through a grassroots effort that included signature gathering for a petition directed at the Portland City Council and direct contact with city council members. 350 PDX organizer Adam Brunelle expressed his group’s excitement: “Given that our atmosphere recently reached the dubious milestone of 400ppm of CO2, we are thrilled not only that our Mayor recognizes the urgency of the issue, but that he also recognizes fossil fuels as risky long-term investments.”

“Why take this seemingly risky investment strategy?” Hales offered. “Because [NOT] doing it is the truly risky move. The vast majority of fossil fuel assets are owned by 200 publicly traded companies. Eventually, these companies will burn through their entire reserves. We don’t know when that will happen, but by definition, we know that it must.”

“By acting locally,” Hales declared, “we can send a message to the world that investment in fossil fuels is a losing proposition, and that loosening our dependence on fossil fuels will increase our quality of life.”

350 PDX citizen activist Dr. Adriana Voss-Andreae, a mother concerned for her children’s future, commented: “The message is loud and clear: If it is wrong to wreck the climate and the planet, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. We thank the Mayor for hearing our message and showing bold leadership by asking our state to do the same.”

“The City,” Hales said, “must urge the Oregon State Treasurer, the Local Government Investment Pool and the Oregon Investment Council to divest of all state holdings in fossil fuels.”

Universities & Churches look to divest from fossil fuels

Check out these two recent articles detailing divestment efforts in Portland!

Student concerns could coax $18M fossil fuel divestment

Sustainable Business Oregon

Oregon Evangelical Lutherans Request Divestment From Fossil Fuels

OPB