NEWS Kammen’s statement on fossil fuel divestment for the American Association of University Professors

Dan Kammen’s state­ment in sup­port of the res­o­lu­tion is here.


The res­o­lu­tion for the AAUP to con­sider is below:

AAUP Res­o­lu­tion Sup­port­ing the United Nations Cli­mate Accord and Cam­pus Divestment

At the 2015 United Nations Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence, over 190 nations nego­ti­ated an agree­ment (not yet legally bind­ing) to limit global warm­ing to less than 2 degrees Celsius—and to pur­sue efforts to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Achieve­ment of this ambi­tious goal will require a res­olute col­lec­tive global effort.  All orga­ni­za­tions and insti­tu­tions, large and small, must take all fea­si­ble steps, con­sis­tent with their resources and mis­sions, to help achieve a rapid decrease in green­house gas emis­sions and a tran­si­tion to renew­able ener­gies.  Fail­ure to do so will cause major dis­rup­tions to polit­i­cal and eco­nomic insti­tu­tions and threaten not only the well-​​being but also the very sur­vival of future generations.

Promi­nent among cur­rent mea­sures to reduce heat-​​trapping emis­sions is a grow­ing divest­ment move­ment. It began in 2011 as stu­dents at sev­eral U.S. col­leges peti­tioned admin­is­tra­tors to divest their endow­ments of fossil-​​fuel stocks and bonds.  Five years later, this move­ment includes not only col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties but also pen­sion funds, foun­da­tions, faith-​​based groups, gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions, and indi­vid­ual investors who have, in total, divested over $3.4 tril­lion in assets.

The AAUP rec­og­nizes that the cam­paign to divest from fos­sil fuels is presently con­tro­ver­sial, but it is, nev­er­the­less, the AAUP’s con­sid­ered judg­ment that there are com­pelling eco­nomic and moral rea­sons to sup­port divestment.

Finan­cial ana­lysts increas­ingly speak of a “car­bon bub­ble” soon likely to burst. This is because much of the value of carbon-​​fuel com­pa­nies con­sists of under­ground reserves, most of which (65–80%) must remain there as “stranded assets” if we are to avoid cat­a­strophic cli­mate change. These com­pa­nies are vul­ner­a­ble to sev­eral pos­si­ble devel­op­ments:  gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions and /​or judi­cial deci­sions that would limit the use of car­bon fuels, the accel­er­at­ing devel­op­ment of alter­na­tive energy sources, and the grow­ing polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion to fos­sil fuels.

The eth­i­cal argument—the moral imper­a­tive to respect the rights of future generations—is even more com­pelling. Given that its mis­sion state­ment includes a com­mit­ment to “pro­mote the eco­nomic secu­rity of fac­ulty, aca­d­e­mic pro­fes­sion­als  .  .  .  and all those engaged in teach­ing and research in higher edu­ca­tion” as well as a com­mit­ment to “ensure higher education’s con­tri­bu­tion to the com­mon good,” the AAUP rec­og­nizes its respon­si­bil­ity to par­tic­i­pate in cur­rent efforts to pre­serve our planet.  As Sha­ran Bur­row of the Inter­na­tional Trade Union Con­fed­er­a­tion aptly cau­tions, “There are no jobs on a dead planet.” Nor, it might be added, will there be any uni­ver­si­ties to pro­mote the pub­lic good.

It is expected of insti­tu­tions of higher edu­ca­tion that they will pro­vide intel­lec­tual and eth­i­cal lead­er­ship.  Accord­ingly, the AAUP deems it appro­pri­ate and nec­es­sary to now add its voice to the call for divestment.

While the AAUP appre­ci­ates the many steps already taken by Amer­i­can col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties to address cli­mate change, it also rec­og­nizes the urgent need for an imme­di­ate inten­si­fi­ca­tion and exten­sion of these efforts.

In par­tic­u­lar, the AAUP calls upon mem­bers of the aca­d­e­mic com­mu­nity to take the fol­low­ing actions:

  1. Admin­is­tra­tors should over­see fur­ther reduc­tions in cam­pus green­house gas emissions;
  2. Fac­ulty should cre­ate addi­tional courses and co-​​curricular pro­gram­ming to teach the skills and val­ues needed to cre­ate a sus­tain­able society;
  3. Uni­ver­sity sci­en­tists should devote more atten­tion to research­ing energy con­ser­va­tion and renew­able energies;
  4. Gov­ern­ing Boards should begin a process, tak­ing no longer than five years, to purge endow­ments and retire­ment funds of fossil-​​fuel hold­ings and to rein­vest these monies into busi­nesses that pro­mote con­ser­va­tion and green energies.

We urgently ask all of our col­leagues to pro­mote these mea­sures on their campuses.



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