A group of University of Washington students has asked the school’s governing board to take the first step toward divesting in fossil fuels.
The student-led Fossil Fuels Divestment Campaign has worked with the school’s treasury office to create a set of guidelines that would encourage the UW to seek out investments in alternative energy and examine investments through the lens of environmental and social values.
One of the suggested policies — asking the university to collaborate with other institutional investors on letter-writing campaigns and shareholder proxies targeting fossil fuel companies — will require approval from the Board of Regents, the UW’s governing board. Students will come back to the regents in November to seek that permission, but they said they were confident they could get approval.
The students made their presentation Thursday to the regents along with UW associate treasurer Ann Sarna; the treasury office helped develop the approach. “Treasury has already ran the analyses and made sure this is not only feasible, but financially responsible,” said Sarra Tekola, an undergraduate majoring in environmental science.
The approach has also won the approval of the UW’s undergraduate student governing body, the Associated Students of the University of Washington.
Benjamin Peterson, a graduate student in library information science and political science, said it took the Sierra Club five years to divest from fossil fuels, and the proposals being put forth at the UW are similar to the first steps the environmental club took before it eventually divested.
The fossil fuel divestment campaign on college campuses is national in scope, and was started by Middlebury College professor Bill McKibben, who founded the environmental group 350.org.
“At the end of the day, this is what we need in order to divest,” Tekola said. “This is one of many steps. We’ll see how this goes, but this is not the end, and we plan to continue on.”