FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2 May 2015
Contact: Stephen O’Hanlon, (610) 955-7398, firstname.lastname@example.org, Swarthmore Mountain Justice
SWARTHMORE COLLEGE CONTINUES INVESTMENTS IN FOSSIL FUELS DESPITE 32-DAY SIT-IN, FACULTY RESOLUTION
SWARTHMORE, PA — After a four year campaign and a mandate from the Swarthmore Community, the Board of Managers today chose to stand on the wrong side of history and announced it would continue to invest in fossil fuels. With over two hundred other colleges, foundations, religious institutions, and pension funds including the University of Dayton and Sweden’s $37 billion AP2 Pension Fund choosing to divest, the message is clear: the fossil fuel industry’s basic business model is incompatible with a stable climate and has no place in a sustainable future.
“The Swarthmore community has spoken: over 2,000 Swarthmore faculty, students, and alumni, including UN climate chief Christiana Figueres ‘79, have called for fossil fuel divestment,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a Swarthmore sophomore and a campaign organizer. “But today, our Board of Managers chose to reconfirm its commitment to an industry that has no place in a sustainable future.”
The divestment campaign is one of the largest in the College’s history. More than 60% of the student body and 1100 alumni have signed a petition for divestment. The faculty passed a resolution formally recommending that the Board divest. Over 200 faculty, students, and alumni participated in a 32-day sit-in for fossil fuel divestment that ended in late April – the longest sit-in in the history of the College and the youth climate movement.
“Despite the Board’s abdication of its fiduciary duties, this has been a historic spring for the climate movement,” said Sophia Zaia, a freshman and campaign organizer. “Our 32 day sit-in catalyzed a wave of escalation across the nation. Since our sit-in began, students on 12 other campuses have escalated their campaigns with sit-ins modeled after ours.”
“As an increasing number of political and financial leaders recognize the need to immediately transition away from fossil fuels,” said Christopher Malafronti, a freshman and campaign organizer. “Swarthmore risks being left behind and remembered in history for its failure to take leadership at this critical moment. This crisis is real. Lives are already at stake. Our generation’s future is at stake. As our government and world leaders sit idly by, island nations are disappearing, crops are turning to desert, and the world’s most marginalized communities are already facing the increasingly deadly impacts of the fossil fuel industry.”
“The Board says the Investments Committee manages the endowment to yield the best long term results, but Investments Chair Chris Niemczewski and his committee have consistently ignored the significant financial risk of stranded fossil fuel assets,” said Sophia Zaia, a freshman and campaign organizer. “An unprecedented chorus of financial leaders, including Former SEC Chairman Bevis Longstreth and HSBC Investment bank, have sounded the alarm on the carbon bubble, but the Board has not listened.”
The Board says the “Investment Committee manages the endowment to yield the best long term financial results, rather than to pursue other social objectives.” But the Investments Committee, and Chair Chris Niemczewski, have consistently ignored the significant financial risks posed by fossil fuel assets, as articulated by
“This has been an incredible year of organizing and we will be back in September stronger than ever,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a Swarthmore sophomore and campaign organizer. “Divestment is too important an issue to abandon and the repercussions of staying invested in fossil fuels are too dire to stop fighting. We know it is only a matter of time before Swarthmore divests. All that remains to be seen is whether Swarthmore is remembered as a leader, or an institution forced by economic and social necessity to follow along.”
Swarthmore Mountain Justice (swatmj.org) is a student group at Swarthmore College and founded the first fossil fuel divestment campaign. There are now over 500 fossil fuel divestment campaigns worldwide. Swarthmore Mountain Justice is calling on the Swarthmore College Board of Managers to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in just and sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.
The Board decided to create a Green Fund, an alternative investment fund within the endowment that does not invest directly in fossil fuel stocks going forward. Alumni can earmark their future contributions for this fund which we expect to have in place later this year. The entire $1.9 billion endowment is still invested in fossil fuels and this fund still has indirect investments in fossil endowment.
Pledge to withholding your donations to show the Board the continuing alumni mandate for divestment of the entire endowment from fossil fuels.
We are a group of students, faculty, and alumni calling on the Swarthmore Board of Managers to divest our endowment from the “Carbon Underground 200,” which includes the 200 fossil fuel companies (including oil, natural gas, and coal) with the largest carbon reserves.
- Immediately begin a process that will achieve a fossil fuel free endowment by 2020, the same year that global carbon emissions must peak if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change. As the world moves toward a more sustainable future, it is unconscionable for Swarthmore to remain invested in fossil fuels. (For more detailed information, read our full proposal)
- Reinvest at least 1 percent of the endowment into community and renewable energy solutions, including community development financial institutions and revolving loan funds. Feedback on allocation will be provided by campus stakeholders working through the Committee on Investor Responsibility.
Fossil fuel corporations violate countless health, safety, and environmental regulations, the burdens of which are usually borne by low-income communities and communities of color. Swarthmore Mountain Justice strives to work in solidarity with communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction, burning, transportation, and waste. The fossil fuel industry is also one of the primary culprits of the climate crisis and corrupts our political system with incredible financial influence. A large-scale divestment movement not only cuts into that financial power, but it also affects these companies on a political and moral level. We refuse to stand by while our school invests in the destruction of communities by deadly fossil fuels and climate change. Learn more about our campaign.
It is time for Swarthmore to become a true leader in the struggle for climate justice. Swarthmore has the opportunity to take a bold stand for a just and sustainable future by refusing to support the very companies that are destroying that future.
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Want to get in contact with us? Our email is SwarthmoreMJ (at) gmail.com