The University of Hawaii Board of Regents has decided that since combatting the effects of climate change is more important than possible economic profit, the school’s $66 million endowment should no longer invest in companies that produce fossil fuels, the university said in a May 21 statement posted online.
“The board approached its discussion on divestment with the spirit of collaboration,” said UH Board of Regents Chair Randy Moore in the statement. “The divestment task group was comprised of faculty, students, administrators and board members. The result was a superb collaborative effort and the final outcome represented the best of shared governance.”
In a House of Representatives news release made public at roughly the same time as the UH announcement, Rep. Chris Lee, a Democrat from Kailua who chairs the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, applauded the regents’ move:
“I commend the UH Board of Regents on leading by example and looking out for the interests of local residents. Hawaii is already spending millions to save our eroding beaches and diminishing fresh water supply from growing climate changes.
“It’s important we not raise costs to taxpayers by investing in fossil fuels that add to the problem, and instead invest in clean alternatives that can be equally profitable. It is not only the right thing to do, but, together with the Legislature’s decision to move the state toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, puts Hawaii in the forefront of nationwide efforts to move toward greater reliance on renewable and sustainability energy resources.”
Spearheaded in part by the 350 movement, fossil fuel divestment has grown in popularity across university campuses (click here for a list of institutions and organizations around the world who’ve pledged to divest their portfolios of fossil fuel stocks).
“When you invest your money, you might buy stocks, bonds, or other investments that generate income for you,” states the activist website GoFossilFree.org. “Universities (and colleges in the US), religious organizations, retirement funds, and other institutions put billions in these same kinds of investments to generate income to help them run. Fossil fuel investments are a risk for both investors and the planet, so we’re calling on institutions to divest from these companies.”
Whether divestment works on a financial as opposed to just a moral level remains controversial. If you go to the website Divestmentfacts.com–which opposes divestment in fossil fuel stocks and is funded by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA)–you’ll find this quote from University of Chicago Law School Professor Daniel Fischel:
“Every bit of economic and quantitative evidence available to us today shows that the only entities punished under a fossil-fuel divestment regime are the schools actually doing the divesting—with virtually no discernible impact on the targeted companies.”
Of course, this February 2015 Forbes report states that the IPAA also funded Fischel’s research on divestment. Officials with 350 also dispute Fischel’s findings, according to Forbes.
“Report after report has shown that divestment would not increase portfolio risk,” Yossi Cadan, a campaign manager with 350, states in the above Forbes article. “A number of independent studies have concluded that, in fact, the average college endowment would have saved money if it had fully divested a decade ago.”
Photo: Mirafiori/Wikimedia Commons