Fossil Fuel Divestment For Dummies


full Well, it’s been a long time coming. Last week Syracuse made a formal ban on direct involvement in fossil fuels and coal mining. SU is now one of 26 schools including Unity College and Stanford University that have divested or outlawed to some degree direct investment of their endowments in fossil fuels and coal mining. This is a huge win and step forward for students and faculty who are involved in the divesting movement, and who have fought for years to get the university to change its policies.

To answer the important question, "What exactly is “divesting?" here's an explanation: It can be thought of as de-investing. For instance, if a university had invested in fossil fuels and coal mining, divesting would involve that school selling its shares. However, SU has not had direct investments — the new policy simply declares that they will not be able to directly invest in these in the future, a step in the right direction.

Now some of you might be thinking, “Who cares?” Well, you should. Though fossil fuel and coal mining companies are lucrative investments, the long-term impact of these energy sources is damaging to our planet (e.g. climate change). Colleges and universities hopping on this sustainable bandwagon is a sign of a great shift in thinking, and of things to come.

Members of the Divest SU-ESF group have consistently urged the university to reverse its policies on investments in fossil fuel and coal mining companies. The on-campus organization has been active since October 2012. In the wake of the news, I reached out to members of the organization to gain extra information about the decision.

In regards to financial implication, Divest SU-ESF member Ben Kuebrich says, “Based on our previous meetings, they [the university] have as much as 10 percent invested in fossil fuels through their external fund managers.” So that’s about $100 million still invested in fossil fuels indirectly — through third parties. Alright, SU, it’s the thought that counts.

According to Kuebrich, “The most important thing that the university has done is to publicly link the fossil fuel industry to climate change.” So what’s the plan for the future? Kuebrich says, “We are hoping to ask the Chancellor’s administration some questions about how they will direct their fund managers to reduce investments in fossil fuels.”

Sounds like a great place to start. One small step for the University, one giant step for our planet.