Why UP should divest from fossil fuels

By The Beacon | November 4, 2015 10:44am

by Anne Luijten |

The University of Portland is a great university for many reasons. One of these is that UP puts a lot of effort into being environmentally friendly and sustainable: from environmentally sensitive buildings like Shiley Hall, to the banning of water bottle sales and the efforts of Bon Appetit to sell eco-conscious and local food products. The University is doing a great job in many areas.

The University of Portland also joined the President's Climate Commitment in 2007, thereby committing to being carbon neutral by 2040. It is hypocritical, then, that despite all of these green initiatives, the University is still investing in fossil fuels through its endowment fund. The fossil fuel industry is everything that sustainability is not: Fossil fuels are high polluters, non-renewable, and a major factor contributing to climate change. So why has the University not yet divested from fossil fuels?

Several universities have gone before us. For example, in 2014, Stanford University announced its decision to divest from coal companies. And in the public sector, just three weeks ago, Multnomah County and the City of Portland announced that they will no longer invest in companies on the Carbon Tracker 200 list, the 200 companies with the largest fossil fuel reserves (including ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP). The World Council of Churches divested as well. All over the country, students are pushing institutions to divest from fossil fuels. If Stanford, Multnomah County, and the City of Portland can do it, isn’t it time for UP to do something too?

Divestment is also aligned with Catholic values. In his June 18 encyclical, Pope Francis wrote: “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas needs to be progressively replaced without delay.” The Catholic Church recognizes the immediate need for action with stewardship of our future; shouldn’t UP be on the same page?

The University should align their investments with the sustainable future they advocate for, a future the fossil fuel industry has no part in. Fossil fuel divestment generates two goals: First, it aligns actions with values. For UP, divestment would be a great next step in becoming more sustainable, a goal that is already set in motion for the University. Second, divestment changes the public discourse on our collective energy future. Climate change is an issue of great moral consequence and concern, and the University has a duty to educate its students and the wider community and to take the lead in becoming more sustainable.

We ask our University to:

  1. Immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuels.
  2. Divest from all companies on the Carbon Tracker 200 list within five years.
It is time for the University to serve as an example. It is time for the University to take action. It is time for UP to divest from fossil fuels.


Anne Luijten is a senior sociology major and can be reached at luijten16@up.edu.