A.S. Council nearly unanimously passed a resolution presented by the UCSD Student Sustainability Collective last Wednesday, proposing to divest fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas, from UCSD’s endowment funds.
The Feb. 20 decision makes UCSD the third UC campus student government — after UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara, who voted on similar bills earlier this month — to pass legislation regarding fossil fuel divestment. These campuses are three of 256 universities participating in the ongoing, nationwide campaign that calls on universities to freeze new investments in fossil fuel companies, divest from direct ownership and commingled funds — including fossil fuel public equities — and ultimately rid endowment funds of fossil fuel stocks.
The campaign is called “Fossil Free” and is organized by global grassroots climate crisis group 350.org and led by Bill McKibben. It has garnered nationwide attention through its divestment efforts.
“Fossil Free” urges students to begin local divestments to fight against fossil fuel companies that have been able to block national climate action through political influence and money. The movement focuses on a list of 200 coal, gas and oil companies that are labeled as the worst offenders of fossil fuel consumption by the Carbon Tracker Initiative at CarbonTracker.org.
The movement reached UCSD through efforts from the California Student Sustainability Collective, which works with UC campuses to begin campaigns and ultimately present the UC Board of Regents with a united student resolution against the UC system’s $6 billion endowment investment practices.
Sixth College senior Allie Platt, SSC director of Energy and Waste Policy, is leading UCSD’s campaign chapter along with the entire SSC and endorsements from Associate Vice President Environmental and Social Justice Affairs Vanessa Garcia and Muir Senator Andrew Buselt.
“This is really a test to the strength of the UC System,” Buselt said. “I really think that we’re making history in this movement.”
Platt began her campaign as a senior project in the fall and evolved it into a universitywide fossil fuel divestment campaign with efforts from SSC, A.S. Council and several administrators, including Vice Chancellor for Resource Management and Planning Gary Matthews and Associate Vice President of UCSD Foundation and Advancement Services Marlene Shaver.
“The point is to basically put these companies into a moral or political position where they look taboo,” Platt said. “So they look like tobacco companies, or just as bad as being involved with or investing in the apartheid in South Africa … because they need to stop looking for new carbon. We cannot put as much carbon into the atmosphere as we are right now.”
Platt hopes to bring the newly passed resolution to the UC Regents in the future, just as the UC Berkeley Associate Vice President of External Affairs is doing at the UC Regents meeting this March.
Platt is also sending three SSC members to the first ever fossil fuel divestment conference this weekend and is working on creating a socially responsible investment policy for the Student Foundation with help from a student poll in the future.
“There are certain powers that have money, and the fossil fuel industry is one of them,” Platt said. “We want to hit them from the bottom line. To divest from these corporations is a way of saying ‘Hey, we’re taking back our democracy.’”