On the climate front, Penn seems to be making big moves: On April 7, the University’s administration released an email to the Penn community outlining Penn’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions within the endowment by 2050. Penn is once again acknowledging Fossil Free Penn’s stance that Penn’s investments have climatological consequences — that our endowment has the power to act against the forces that cause climate change instead of funding them. At the surface level, the new commitment looks like serious climate action, but the face of this plan — Penn’s “net-zero endowment” goal — neglects demands from students to divest our endowment from fossil fuels.
The University wants to reduce the net greenhouse gas emissions from our endowment investments to net-zero by 2050. This is 20 years later than the recommendations from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report, which suggests by 2030 the climate crisis’ catastrophic effects will largely be irreversible.
This plan ensures that Penn can continue to fund fossil fuel corporations and other greenhouse gas-emitting industries. Penn plans to reach their net-zero goal by waiting for companies they invest in to reduce their emissions. The University also plans to maintain investments and make new investments in companies that have “low or improving carbon footprints.” Many environmentally destructive companies technically meet these criteria, like oil giants BP and Exxon Mobil, which both have hollow plans in place to reduce their emissions. However, oil companies’ reductions in emissions are meaningless because their business models rely on selling fossil fuels. Selling any amount of fossil fuels is a recipe for further climate disaster. In order to avoid climate catastrophe, 80% of fossil fuel reserves must not be extracted or burned. Penn’s plan is not worthwhile if its investments actively help the deadly fossil fuel industry stay afloat.
The most significant failure of this plan is the strategic way Penn calculates emissions. Their plan conveniently omits Scope 3 — or indirect — emissions, which account for 90% of all fossil fuel companies’ emissions. Scope 3 includes all of the emissions from oil, gas, and coal that fossil fuel companies sell to be burned downstream. On the other hand, Scope 1 and 2 emissions account for the emissions that result from using company cars or purchasing…
Read More: Fossil Free Penn | Penn’s new ‘net-zero’ climate goal is deceptive and ignores years