Student concerns could coax $18M fossil fuel divestment
By Lee van der Voo
Equilibrium Capital's Bill Campbell said divestment campaigns work because they frequently pay off in the long run for investors.
The Oregon University System is exploring whether it should divest its endowment fund from 200 publicly traded companies that hold the majority of the world’s proven coal, oil and gas reserves.
The inquiry follows a push from students at several of the universities in tandem with a student movement across the globe. The students are among activists at more than 300 colleges and universities who want their schools to withdraw endowment funds from fossil fuel companies. They want schools to divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds.
So far, organizers say a handful of universities have agreed to divest funds. Ten U.S. cities, including Eugene, have also committed to divest.
At stake in Oregon is about 2.5 percent of the Oregon University System’s $730 million worth of investments, or around $18 million, said Karen Levear, the Oregon University System’s director of treasury operations.
The push is part of a nationwide campaign orchestrated by 350.org and its leading environmental advocate, Bill McKibben. The campaign argues that fossil fuel reserves held by the 200 companies are already sufficient to raise the earth’s temperature an average of 2 degrees Celsius five times over.
The 2 degree metric, about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, is one that most governments worldwide have agreed would be unsafe, according to the campaign.
McKibben argues that fossil fuel companies are valued on their reserves. Investing in them encourages those companies to continue to increase reserves, which in turn promotes global warming. The top 500 college and university endowments, he says, hold nearly $400 billion in economic investments.
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