Alumni for Divestment at MIT (AD-MIT): firstname.lastname@example.org June-July 2015
Fossil Fuel Divestment News for the MIT Alumni Community and Beyond
Help Spread the Word
Share this newsletter with fellow MIT alums via email, Facebook, or Twitter! And make sure your friends have signed the petition to divest our endowment from fossil fuels. Over 3,400 MIT community members have already signed!
Do you have experience with fundraising? AD-MIT is preparing to reach out to high-impact donors for the Multi-School Divestment Fund, and could use your guidance in choosing targets and making effective pitches. Let us know at email@example.com
Climate Change Committee Recommends Targeted Fossil Fuel Divestment
President Reif’s Climate Change Conversation Committee (C4) released its final report (read HERE) on June 15th, including many recommendations for how MIT can take bold action. The C4 recommends divestment of the MIT endowment specifically from coal and tar sands companies, whose operations most endanger climate health. The C4 also recommends the formation of an Ethics Advisory Council to “explicitly combat disinformation and avoid inadvertently supporting disinformation through investments.” The council could lead to “engagement with and ultimately divestment from entities that persist in spreading disinformation.” The C4 states, “we reject the notion that ethics should play no role in investment.”
Other recommendations in the report include implementing a campus-wide carbon price, creating a “Climate Institute” for research, and transforming MIT’s campus into a “Living Laboratory” for climate mitigation and energy efficiency. Read the press release here that outlines the C4’s process. Throughout the process, voices in favor of divestment were prominent. The dedication of student, faculty, and alumni supporters over the past few months has clearly paid off!
Before the C4 delivers its final recommendations to President Reif, it is soliciting comments from all members of the MIT community until July 15th. We need to show a groundswell of support for divestment, to make sure the administration knows that the MIT alumni (and others) are behind the committee’s endorsement of coal and tar sands divestment and are ready for MIT to pursue full fossil fuel divestment. Please email a short (or long) note of support to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 15th!
Reunion weekend wrap-up
During MIT’s Reunion Weekend from June 4-6, AD-MIT members reached out to hundreds of visiting alumni, engaging many in conversations about divestment. In addition to garnering many new divestment petition signatures and hosting a Climate Mixer, AD-MIT gave divestment broad visibility among alums.
Of special note was the June 5th issue of the Tech which carried 3 prominent divestment-related articles, including letters signed by 79 faculty members and 21 student groups in support of divestment, and a news article about the faculty letter and the campaign, as well as an op-ed urging a broader focus in MIT’s approach to climate action beyond divestment, and a climate change cartoon.
In his commencement remarks, President Reif acknowledged the role of the divestment campaign in inspiring the community to think seriously about the challenge of climate change and students’ future role in society, and specifically commended “the students of Fossil Free MIT, who inspired a community conversation about how MIT can lead in solving the challenge of climate change.”
The voices for divestment are rising around campus!
Recent divestment developments
It’s been an exciting time for divestment progress! In recent weeks, several major institutions have joined a rapidly growing movement pledging divestment in various forms:
- The Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Rhode Island School of Design have pledged full divestment from fossil fuel companies. The RACP, the largest specialist medical college of Australasia, stated that “Since the RACP is a health organization with an objective of improving the health of our population, divestment is an important action that leads to reduced carbon outputs and achievement of our health objective.” RISD board chairman Michael Spalter said “I’m proud of the outcome.” Bravo!
- Pledges to divest from coal companies have been made by Georgetown University, the University of Washington, Oxford University (which also pledged to divest from tar sands and others deemed to have “high social and environmental risks”), and the $900B Norwegian sovereign wealth fund. These high-profile divestment actions give strong support to the growing movement to delegitimize the destructive activities of the most polluting sectors of the fossil fuel industry. Campaigners at each institution vow to continue pressuring their leaders to commit to full divestment.
If MIT follows the advice of the Climate Change Conversation Committee, we can soon add MIT to this list. Help make it happen by writing to email@example.com by July 15th to express your strong support for divestment, as well as for any other proposals (e.g., a Climate Institute) you think need to be implemented!
Pope Francis sends a powerful message on climate justice
On June 18th, Pope Francis released his encyclical, “On Care For Our Common Home.” The teaching links global environmental degradation and climate change to poverty and calls on wealthy nations to pay the debt that 200 years of resource misuse has cost the wellbeing of the planet, and the people of poor nations especially. The document, addressed to “all humanity,” covers diverse topics, from the economic and cultural roots of the deepening ecological and climate crisis to the inherent value of human and nonhuman life to the relative merits of certain political solutions. The release of the encyclical was timed in advance of the pontiff’s upcoming visit to the United States to speak before the United Nations and a joint session of Congress. He hopes to influence world leaders before the December UN climate meeting in Paris, which is widely considered the last chance for a major global climate agreement that can avert emissions leading to more than 2°C of average global warming.
Dutch court sets precedent for challenging weak emissions targets
In a groundbreaking decision on June 24th, a high court in the Netherlands found the state legally liable for protecting the well-being of its citizens by enacting reductions in carbon emissions which are consistent with the target of limiting average global warming to 2°C. The Netherlands is currently on track to achieve only a 17-19% reduction by 2020 (relative to 1990 levels), but the court ruled that they must be cut by at least 25%. Unlike when states set emissions targets among themselves, this ruling holds the Dutch government accountable directly to its citizens. Emissions limits are a divisive issue in the Netherlands, as the country is poised to bear significant impacts from rising seas, yet also to potentially profit from its vast offshore natural gas reserves. While still vulnerable to a higher court appeal, this ruling was a major, first-of-its-kind victory for climate campaigners, who hope this precedent will influence similar legal cases being argued in Belgium and elsewhere around the world, as well as the international negotiations at the UN climate meeting in Paris in December.
Q: How can divestment of university endowments have a financial impact on fossil fuel companies?
A: The act of divestment is not intended to directly harm fossil fuel companies financially. Even if every major college and university endowment in the country divested, the stock value of large fossil fuel companies would most likely not drop significantly, partly because the shareholder proportion of university funds is a small fraction of the total value of the companies and partly because other investors would likely purchase the discarded stocks. Instead, the goal and main impact of divestment is its influence on how the public and policymakers view the fossil fuel industry, and the changes in policies and consumer choices which follow. The prestigious reputation of MIT gives us a megaphone to public opinion. By choosing to divest from fossil fuel companies, MIT sends the message loud and clear that the science is unequivocal–we must act now to prevent the worst impacts of anthropogenic climate change. The act itself is symbolic, but the meaning will resonate across our community and to the halls of power in boardrooms and congressional meeting rooms around the globe.