On the Friday before Spring Break, the Climate Action group met with the University board of trustees to present on the urgency of the climate crisis, and the role that Wesleyan must play in fighting it, including rapid carbon neutrality and divestment from fossil fuels. After the presentation, the board of trustees released the following statement:
“Given the climate emergency, the investment and ecological risks associated with fossil fuels and the Investment Committee’s own environmental, social and governance guidelines, there was broad agreement among trustees not to make new fossil fuel investments and to wind down current investments in this sector as quickly as possible while minimizing the negative impact to the value of the endowment. The University will be divested from direct fossil fuel investments by the end of the decade.”
Although we thank the board of trustees for meeting with us, we feel that they heard us, but did not fully listen to what we were asking. We walked in asking for the University to divest as quickly as possible, as well as accelerate the deadline for carbon neutrality and begin the process of updating our energy infrastructure. We felt at the time that both of these conversations went well, and we even heard some board members estimate that the divestment process could be accomplished in five years. Regardless of the questionable timeline, we are saddened to see yet another carefully worded, yet vague statement from the administration, boasting accomplishments without any language about carbon neutrality and no action plan for complete divestment from fossil fuels that is transparent to the student body.
We commend the board of trustees for their commitment to fossil fuel divestment, but we demand further data and greater detail regarding this commitment. We implore the University to work with us rather than continuing to release statements that applaud themselves yet provide no plan of action for divestment or as to why its goal is only the end of the decade.
We see a board of trustees that will agree with and cooperate with us up to a certain point, but doesn’t seem to take us completely seriously or fully grasp the urgency of our demands.
We all well understand now that we are living in a time of environmental crises, a time when we need global cooperation on all fronts. We do not know what the world will look like in ten years. Indeed, the last decade was the warmest on record and we have it on strong authority that the planet is only going to get warmer. We have to reduce global CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 if we hope to keep the global temperature from rising more than 1.5C. If we fail, our world begins to look very different. We lose our ice caps, we lose numerous biodiverse and productive ecosystems, and hundreds of millions of people (in addition to the millions already lost) die in heat waves and flooding. To many in our generation, the future appears bleak; we are scared and we are angry and we are doing all that we can to change it. We are asking Wesleyan to do the same.
We are asking for transparency, we are asking for honesty, and we are asking for boldness.
The climate crisis was caused by all of us and it affects all of us. We are writing this with the hope that Wesleyan will provide us with their complete divestment plan so that we may work together to mitigate our impact.
Ben Silverstone is a member of the class of 2022 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.