All eight Ivy League student body presidents signed a joint resolution authored by Penn’s Student Sustainability Association calling for each school to fully divest from fossil fuels.
The resolution, which also contains contributions from Penn’s Undergraduate Assembly, considers full divestment to be an end to new investments by Fiscal Year 2021, and complete divestment by Fiscal Year 2025. The resolution defines divestment as no investments in any of the top 200 fossil fuel companies; in companies that extract, process, transmit, or refine coal, oil, or gas; or in any utilities whose primary business function it is to burn fossil fuels for electricity.
University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy did not respond to a request for comment on whether Penn’s administration is aware of the resolution or if it plans to act on it.
College junior and SSAP Co-Chair Vyshnavi Kosigishroff said Penn’s 2020 announcement not to invest in coal and tar sands, as well as its recent commitment to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from endowment investments by 2050, are misleading and insufficient.
“SSAP, generally speaking, considers this announcement [of divestment by 2050] to be a lot of greenwashing, not really a commitment to anything, and really unambitious. [It] continues the narrative of Penn being really far behind our peer institutions,” Kosigishroff said.
Climate activists from SSAP and Fossil Free Penn criticized Penn’s plan for continuing to invest in fossil fuels. Penn’s plan for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 puts it on the same timeline as that of the oil company BP.
Kosigishroff said there is a “really strong” financial case for full divestment, along with a moral imperative. She pointed to the University of California school system, which made the decision to divest from fossil fuels last year to invest instead in sustainable energy, which the school system said is better for the environment and a more financially promising investment than oil or gas.
One goal of the resolution is to change the narrative surrounding divestment to push Penn and the other Ivy League institutions to recognize its financial practicality, Kosigishroff said.
“The narrative right now is that this is a really niche ask that is coming from a bunch of naive climate activists who have no idea how the real world works, and how finance works at all. That’s just not the case,” Kosigishroff said.
Kosigishroff emphasized the contradiction between Ivy League schools, including Penn, producing leading climate research, while continuing to fund the fossil fuel industry.
At Penn, Kosigishroff said, this conflict of interest is especially apparent. Several members of Penn’s Board of Trustees have…
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