In a letter to Stanford’s president, John Hennessy and the board of trustees, the professors – which included Nobel laureates and this year’s Fields medal winners – urged the government to act on both the moral and scientific case for fossil fuel divestment.
The letter reads:
¨When it comes to the future our students will live to see, there is a scientifically documented, morally clear, technologically innovative right thing to do: divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in a sustainable future.¨
In one of the biggest wins for the divestment movement, Stanford University – which controls a $21.4 billion endowment – announced it would cut its ties with coal companies in May 2014.
Within months of this announcement, however, the university had put more money into oil and gas operations.
Today’s letter calls on Stanford to go further than its earlier commitment and cut its ties with all fossil fuel companies, not just coal.
“The urgency and magnitude of climate change call not for partial solutions, however admirable; they demand the more profound and thorough commitment embodied in divestment from all fossil-fuels companies,” the letter says.
The alternative – for Stanford to remain invested in oil and gas companies – presents us with a paradox: if a university seeks to educate extraordinary youth so they may achieve the brightest possible future, what does it mean for that university simultaneously to invest in the destruction of that future?
The letter supports an online petition run by Fossil Free Stanford that calls on Alumni, Parents, and Staff to urge the university to fully turn its back on dirty energy.
While acknowledging the “ground-breaking” victory of the May 2014 decision to end coal investments, Stanford students are also urging the university to take its commitment further.
The campaign is one of over 300 fossil fuel divestment campaigns currently being run on university and college campuses around the world, as well as in over 100 cities and religious institutions globally.
According to the world’s leading climate scientists, if the world fails to tackle rising fossil fuel emissions, it could breach the internationally agreed global warming danger threshold of 2C within just 30 years.
With this growing awareness that most of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves must stay unburned to avoid catastrophic climate change, the divestment campaign doubled in size last year.
What started with a few US universities has grown into institutions with a combined asset size of more than US $50 billion pledging to ditch their holdings in fossil fuels.
In one of its most high-profile wins, last September, the heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune withdrew their $860m philanthrophic fund from investments in tar sands, coal, and oil.
Other high profile individuals such as Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, have also chosen to divest, while the movement has seen successes across cities; faith groups, such as the Quakers; medical institutions, such as the British Medical Association; academic institutions in the US, Australia and Europe; and pension funds.
As it spreads far and wide across the globe, it is no surprise that the fossil-free movement has taken the title as fastest growing divestment movement in history, and the campaign remains at the forefront of a burgeoning movement of people around the world who are taking to the streets to challenge institutions and governments and demanding strong climate action.