An article in a leading UK newspaper, The Guardian, features ASAP’s call for universities to withdraw any endowment funds invested in fossil fuel companies.
Here is the ASAP statement in full:
In light of the urgency of climate change, we, the Directors and members of Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP), strongly support the growing movement to divest university endowments from fossil fuel companies. We applaud the recent divestment commitments made by Stanford University, the New School, University of Glasgow, Syracuse University, and 23 other universities in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. We urge all other universities to follow their lead.
Time is running out. The Cop 21 Summit in Paris in December of this year is probably our last chance to secure binding and meaningful emission reductions. We must convey the strongest possible message ahead of this summit, and the divestment movement offers a highly promising opportunity to do so.
The scientific community agrees that global warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would constitute “dangerous climate change” as defined by the UNFCCC, with wide-reaching negative impacts on human and natural systems. In order to have a ⅔ chance of remaining below this threshold, we cannot emit more than 1,000 gigatonnes of CO2 from 2011 on. At our present rate, we will burn through this carbon budget in only 25 years. And if we burn all currently known and recoverable fossil fuel reserves – as the fossil fuel industry plans – we will produce over 3,670 gigatonnes of CO2. That’s nearly 4 times the allowable budget.
The conclusion is strikingly clear: in the absence of decisive action, we are on track for catastrophic climate change. On our present course, climate change will wipe out crucial gains in development and poverty reduction in the global South, and will trigger food shortages, conflict, epidemic disease, and mass displacement. According the IPCC, these trends will “exacerbate multidimensional poverty” and “create new poverty pockets” in low- and middle-income countries. The current response by the international community is inadequate to prevent this from happening.
Publicly listed and investor-owned fossil fuel companies hold a significant proportion of existing fossil fuel reserves – more than enough to surpass the global emissions budget. Their business model depends on selling and burning these reserves, and then finding yet more reserves to sell and burn. By investing in these companies, we are effectively saying that we endorse these activities and are willing to profit from them.
At this moment in history, it is paradoxical for universities to remain invested in fossil fuel companies. What does it mean for universities to seek to educate youth and produce leading research in order to better the future, while simultaneously investing in and profiting from the destruction of said future? This position is neither tenable nor ethical.
We believe that institutions of higher education have a special duty to take this stand. As academics, we are in the privileged position to understand the risks posed by climate change and to make powerful statements in support of action. We support the student-led divestment campaigns at universities around the world. We support the recent decision by the United Nations – and UN General Secretary Ban-Ki Moon – to back the divestment movement. We support the cities of Seattle, Portland, Bristol, Oxford, and nearly 50 others in their decision to divest from fossil fuels, as well as the 30 foundations and nearly 100 religious organizations that have done the same. And we support The Guardian‘s campaign to ask the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to divest, recognizing that investments in fossil fuels are inimical to their efforts to advance global development and health.
In the words of Desmond Tutu: “We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow, or there will be no tomorrow.”
Members of the ASAP Board of Directors, Officers, and Chapter Leaders
Thomas Pogge, Yale University (President)
Ashok Acharya, University of Delhi
Luis Cabrera, Griffith University
Jason Hickel, London School of Economics
Keith Horton, University of Wollongong
Mitu Sengupta, Ryerson University
Miles Thompson, Canterbury Christ Church University
Catarina Tully, FromOverHere
Oskar MacGregor, University of Skövde
Ellen Szarleta, Indiana University Northwest
Zorka Milin, Yale Law School
David Rodríguez-Arias, Spanish National Research Council
Members of the ASAP Advisory Board
Raymond W. Baker, President, Global Financial Integrity
Sonia Bhalotra, University Of Essex
Alberto D. Cimadamore, Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP)
Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, The New School
David Hulme, University of Manchester
Alnoor Ladha, /The Rules
John Roemer, Yale University
Henry Shue, Oxford University
Peter Singer, Princeton University
Paul Slovic, Decision Research
UNFCCC Article 2 states the objective of the Convention is to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, ratified by 189 member countries.
 Also from Table 2.2 as above – note that this is the most conservative (lowest) available number; other estimates suggest that known recoverable reserves are twice as high as this figure.
 IPCC. “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability,” Chapter 13. http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/WGIIAR5-Chap13_FGDall.pdf
 See UNEP Gap report 2014 http://www.unep.org/publications/ebooks/emissionsgapreport2014/ Mitigation technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage are only in the demonstration phase, and would need to be scaled up by ~1000 times to make a significant contribution.