Yesterday, six members of GU Fossil Free met with five members of the Board of Directors. We would like to thank them for meeting with us, and we would like to offer a few responses that we did not get to fit in yesterday. We hope that all members of the Board will read the following letter.
The First Step is Full Divestment: An Open Letter to the Board of Directors
From the Members of GU Fossil Free
Dear Members of the Board of Directors,
On Wednesday, February 11th, we, the members of GU Fossil Free, had the opportunity to present our moral argument for divestment from the top 200 coal, oil and gas companies to five of your members. We sincerely thank William R. Berkley, Maurice B.W. Brenninkmeijer, William J. Doyle, Sr. Carol Keehan, and Rev. Joseph P. Parkes, S.J. for listening to our presentation and responding with thoughtful questions. Your attention and presence were deeply appreciated. Furthermore, we were thrilled to hear of the high likelihood of a vote on divestment at the May/June Board meeting. However, in the interests of our planet, and in solidarity with communities suffering from fossil fuel extraction and combustion, it is necessary that we discuss two points of contention that were not resolved by the end of our meeting.
The first point we would like to defend is our use of the metric of companies’ reserves of carbon holdings to identify our top 200. We were questioned during Wednesday’s meeting about the propriety of using this metric; after all, there could be some companies on this list that have a better record than others on human rights abuses, toxic leaks and spills, or following government regulations. However, this does not undermine our use of the carbon reserves metric. The companies that hold the most carbon in their reserves in their holdings have the largest incentive to extract and burn these holdings. From displacing people from their ancestral homelands, poisoning the air and water near extraction sites, and destroying the local environment surrounding their operations, the processes of fossil fuel extraction and combustion harm people from beginning to end. It is the companies most invested in the longevity of the fossil fuel industry who are also most the invested in maintaining the political hegemony of fossil fuel companies over our energy system and in our government. A transition to energy sources that serve justice to both humans and our environment is impossible as long as the dominance of the fossil fuel industry remains.
The second point is the request various Board members made of us to “make a list of priorities” regarding divestment. In their words, asking for full divestment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies is a large step. They asked us to articulate what our “quarter step” would be for them to take. GU Fossil Free will not provide the Board with a “list of priorities” or a “quarter step” short of our ask for full divestment, because full divestment is about integrity at its core. If our University opposes any of the practices of any of the top 200 companies, based on human rights abuses or global climate change, Georgetown University therefore equally opposes all of the companies. The list of 200 companies we have provided is already a deep compromise from what we could have asked the University to divest from on moral grounds. GU Fossil Free fully understands that the process of divesting our endowment from the top 200 companies is complex, and that this cannot be done hurriedly or haphazardly. It is for this reason that we have provided a three-year “tranching” mechanism as part of the process of divestment, a time frame for full divestment within the capability of our expert Investment Office.
To conclude, GU Fossil Free would like to again thank the members of the Board of Directors for their attention to this important matter. We look forward to the deliberations of this week and to a positive commitment to full divestment in May/June, 2015.
GU Fossil Free
If you would like to access a PDF version of this letter, please click the link below.