The students of Boston University call upon President Brown and the Board of Trustees reconsider divestment from direct and indirect holdings in companies that continue exploration for fossil fuel reserves at their April meeting.
In April 2016, The Advisory Committee for Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI) proposed to “prohibit new and divest of any existing direct investments in those companies that (a) continue to explore for new fossil fuel reserves of any kind since the global fossil fuel reserves are estimated to be larger than the amount that can be used and still remain under the accepted estimated warming limit of 2 degrees Celsius or (b) extract coal and tar sands, the most carbon-intensive fuels, until, in the University's judgment, those companies curtail such activities to drive their carbon footprint to acceptable levels.”.
In September 2016, in response, you chose to “on a best efforts basis, avoid investing in coal and tar sands extractors”. Not only does this commitment seem feeble given the vagueness of the terms ‘avoid investing’ and ‘on a best efforts basis’, but it also completely neglects the proposal to divest from companies that are continuing to explore for fossil fuel reserves. You also committed to “revisit this issue every five years, or more often, as economic, climatic, technological, and other developments may warrant.”
Our demand for reconsideration of divestment has two bases.
Firstly, the Board of Trustees’ September 2016 decision to ‘avoid investing’ in only coal and tar sands extractors neglects a crucial portion of the ACSRI’s proposal: to divest from “companies that continue to explore for fossil fuel reserves of any kind”. The goal of divestment is the moral discreditation of companies that bring forth unnecessary social and environmental harms; and when the University commits to only ‘avoid investing’ in a small subset of an extremely pernicious industry, it fails to achieve this goal. As the ASCRI pointed out, divestment from continually exploring companies is necessary in light of the fact that current global fossil fuel reserves already exceed the amount that can be safely burned.
Secondly, the students hold that the election of President Trump, as an ‘economic, climatic, technological or other development’, warrants reconsideration of fossil fuel divestment. With Trump’s election comes extreme threats to the progress made in the last few years towards a safe and clean energy future. It is more important now than ever that institutions across the nation such as Boston University take this moral stand against climate injustice, in the face of a federal government that refuses to acknowledge its very existence.
We hope that President Brown and the Board of Trustees takes this demand seriously and revisits the question of fossil fuel divestment in the upcoming April meeting.