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A Call to action from Fossil Free CU

We, the University of Colorado students, alumni, faculty and staff, and concerned community members, call on the University of Colorado to commit to divesting the University of Colorado System’s Treasury Pool, Retirement Funds, and Endowment from the fossil fuel industry and to reinvesting in a just energy transition by the end of 2027. We call on the University of Colorado to publicly announce this commitment at the Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit on December 1, 2022.

Specifically,

  • We call on the University of Colorado System to divest from fossil fuel companies and to reinvest in a just energy transition, as quickly as financially prudent but no later than 2027. 
  • This call applies to the University of Colorado system’s Treasury Pool, Retirement Funds, and Endowments. We provide more specific definitions for action below. 
    • Treasury Pool: We call on the system Treasurer to publicly re-commit on December 1st, 2022 to a just energy transition for the University of Colorado’s Treasury Pool, to publish a plan for divestment by no later than the end of 2023, and to achieve full divestment by no later than the end of 2027. We also call for the expansion of the Investment Advisory Board to include two students, two faculty, and two staff by the end of 2023. The composition of the board must reflect the university’s commitment to Diversity, Equity Inclusion and Justice. 
    • Endowment: We call on the Trustees of the Endowment to publicly commit to a just energy transition for investments of the University of Colorado Foundation’s Endowment by December 1, 2022, to publish a plan to do so by the end of 2023, and to fully divest no later than the end of 2027. We call on the University of Colorado Board of Regents to issue a resolution encouraging the Trustees to take these bold actions. 
  • Retirement Funds: We call on the Chief Human Resources Officer to find alternatives to TIAA which meet our definition of divestment by the end of 2023. 
  • We call on the University of Colorado Board of Regents to recognize the unfolding climate emergency. In order to meet our call, the Board of Regents must consult with students, faculty, staff and administrators who do climate justice work and create an action plan for a just transition by the end of 2024. Furthermore, we call on the university to implement this plan for a just transition by the end of 2027.

Background

Climate change is already increasing the frequency and severity of disasters, which will only worsen in the coming years. Scientists across the world agree that, to avoid the worst effects of climate change, fossil fuels must stay in the ground. However, the University of Colorado still invests in the fossil fuel industry. As of 2018, energy stocks –mostly fossil fuels– accounted for apporoximately 36 million dollars of the University of Colorado Endowment, which has likely risen to about 100 million dollars this year. Through its investments, the University consents to the devastation inflicted by the fossil fuel industry, and thus endangers the future of CU students, perpetuates systemic injustices against marginalized communities, harms the University’s reputation as a global climate leader, and threatens Coloradan communities.  

As an institution of higher education, the mission of the university is to equip students for their future careers, yet by investing in fossil fuels, CU jeopardizes that future. Additionally, the climate crisis disproportionately impacts the marginalized communities least responsible for the excess of carbon pollution in our atmosphere. Thus, the university’s continued investment in the fossil fuel industry not only exacerbates the climate crisis, but also perpetuates systemic inequities and environmental racism. To invest in a just transition would enact generational justice, uphold CU’s mission for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice, and commit to solidarity with Indigenous, Black, Latinx, AAPI, peasant, and youth movements around the world fighting for a safe and just future. 

The University of Colorado Boulder has also built a reputation as a world-class hub for climate research, policy, and innovation. This December, CU Boulder will partner with United Nations Human Rights to host the Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit. However, the university’s continued investment in fossil fuels damages the university’s reputation as a leader in climate science research. Furthermore, CU is lagging behind the 1500 institutions, including universities, pension funds, governments and foundations, which have divested more than 40 trillion USD from fossil fuels. Divesting would restore CU’s status as a global climate leader.

The region where we live and work in the University of Colorado System is already threatened by climate change, including historic floods, widespread drought, and devastating fires. These traumatic events will only worsen in the coming decades. This places Colorado’s economy and culture, rooted in winter sports, farming, and outdoor recreation, at risk. Additionally, climate change threatens CU’s primary source of operating income, tuition from out-of-state students, as many out-of-state students are drawn to CU because of Colorado’s environment. To divest would commit to a just future for all Coloradans. 

The University of Colorado has recently taken important steps towards climate action. In 2019, both the CU Boulder Student Government and the Boulder Faculty Assembly declared climate emergencies (BFA-R-4-92LCR03). In 2021, CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano issued a “Call to Climate Action.” In the spring of 2022, the CU Boulder Faculty Assembly called upon the CU system to divest its Treasury Pool and upon TIAA to divest its Retirement funds from fossil fuels and reinvest in a just energy transition (BFA-R-3-032722; BFA-R-3-032722). In the summer of 2022, the University of Colorado joined the PRI (Principles of Responsible Investing). However, this is not enough.

To ensure a healthy, sustainable future for its students and community, the University of Colorado system must divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in a just energy transition. 

Sign the petition now:

Sources:

  1. Fossil fuel companies are characterized by one or more of the following qualifications: (1) Is among the 200 publicly traded companies with the largest fossil fuel reserves in the world; (2) Is among the 30 largest public company owners in the world of coal-fired power plants; (3) Has as its core business the construction or operation of fossil fuel infrastructure; (4) Has as its core business the exploration, extraction, refining, processing or distribution of fossil fuels; or (5) Receives more than 50% of its gross revenue from any fossil fuel company or any subsidiary, affiliate or parent of any fossil fuel company (Me. Stat. tit. 5 § 1957).
  2. CU is behind half of the PAC-12 schools which have already committed to divesting, including University of Utah, University of Washington, Oregon State University, and the entire University of California system. Prestigious universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard have also announced their commitment to divestment..