UC faculty, students urge regents to divest from fossil fuels

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SAN FRANCISCO — At the UC regents meeting Wednesday morning, students from Fossil Free Cal presented a letter, which was signed by more than 650 faculty members from across the UC system, urging the regents to divest from fossil fuels.

Fossil Free Cal is the campus branch of a systemwide student-led organization called Fossil Free UC that attempts to persuade the UC regents to divest from fossil fuels. The students attended the UC regents meeting and asked them again to divest, which comes after their sit-in at the UC Office of Investments last May.

According to ASUC Senator Rigel Robinson, 100 students have pledged to take direct action should the UC regents choose not to divest from fossil fuels.

The UC Berkeley Faculty Association also urged the regents to divest in 2014, and the current letter echoes the 2014 statement of support. In September of 2015, the university sold off nearly $200 million of investments in coal and tar sands companies.

“Current students will be at the peak of life in 2050, identified by numerous studies as a point at which the global community will have either adequately responded to climate change, or will be suffering horribly from it,” said the faculty letter. “At this moment of opportunity, we have a tremendous moral responsibility not just to students, but to all living beings to utilize every lever of our institution to address the climate crisis.”

UC Berkeley professor of energy Daniel Kammen said it would “be symbolic” if the UC system diverted money that has been invested into fossil fuel companies into clean energy companies.

“I would like to see us line up our physical resources with our financial purchases,” said Kammen, who is also the director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. “So divesting … is a logical next step, and I feel that if we don’t do it then we send a very mixed message about our commitment to the planet.”

During public comment at the regents meeting Wednesday, seven university students involved with Fossil Free UC encouraged the university to divest from fossil fuels. Many students asked the university to provide climate leadership for other institutions and citizens.

Students also noted that the divestment was especially important in light of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, given his denial of climate change and his appointment of a climate change skeptic to direct the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We believe that our institutions are meant to protect and forge a path for us to pursue our brightest futures and be our best selves,” Robinson said during the meeting. “That means our institutions must stand with us against the wealthiest and most entrenched industry in the world.”

Contact Sakura Cannestra and Anderson Lanham at [email protected].