Fossil Free Yale mulls next step

TasnimElboute_InvestmentTalk-5
Photo by Tasnim Elboute .

At the annual open meeting of the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility Thursday afternoon, approximately 30 student activists affiliated with Fossil Free Yale gathered to discuss fossil fuel divestment with the committee.

The ACIR — a committee of eight professors, students and alumni that evaluates ethical issues surrounding the University’s investments — is responsible for making a recommendation to the Yale Corporation this semester on whether the University should stop investing its endowment in fossil fuel companies.

In the coming weeks, Gabe Rissman ’16 — a member of the student group Fossil Free Yale — said the ACIR will send letters to the 100 companies with the largest coal reserves and the 100 companies with the largest oil and gas reserves to ask them to make their carbon emissions public.

“I’m optimistic,” said Johnathan Landau SOM ’15, a member of Fossil Free Yale. “I think we’ve made great strides.”

Jonathan Macey, a law professor and chair of the ACIR, said Fossil Free Yale and the ACIR will work together to send letters to companies involved in manufacturing fossil fuels and ask them to disclose the environmental impact of their activities. The idea is to engage with these companies, he said.

Members of Fossil Free Yale will ask companies to disclose the emissions they generate relative to their energy production — a metric designed by the Carbon Disclosure Project, a nonprofit organization that publishes data on companies’ carbon emissions. Knowledge of this figure could give Yale an empirical estimate of each company’s impact on the climate, members of Fossil Free Yale said. Of the 200 largest coal and oil and gas companies, only 10 percent already report the metric.

Rissman said Fossil Free Yale is currently drafting the letters to be sent to companies. The drafts will finalized by the ACIR and sent out by early February, he said.

In the event that companies do not comply with disclosure requests, the group hopes the University will decide to divest from those companies, Gabe Levine ’14, policy coordinator for Fossil Free Yale, told the News last week.

Though students at the meeting acknowledged that one argument against divestment asserts that Yale should use its status as a shareholder to push for companies to curb their carbon emissions, they emphasized that this method can be inefficient.

Macey said he feels that University President Peter Salovey and members of the Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility realize divestment is one of the most serious issues on campus.

“I think this meeting showed just how different Yale’s approach to divestment is,” Landau said. “It’s process-oriented.”

At one point in the meeting, Landau asked audience members to stand up to show members of the ACIR the level of student support for the issue.

Macey applauded the students’ work, adding that Fossil Free Yale members “should recognize what [they’ve] accomplished.”

Landau added that despite the overwhelming student support for divestment during the referendum held by the Yale College Council in November, support from alumni and the Yale community at large is still critical.

The Yale College Council, which wrote an open letter to the Yale administration after the referendum, is currently engaging senior members of the Yale administration in discussions about divestment.

In the coming month, the ACIR will present its official recommendation to the Yale Corporation committee. The three members of that committee will then have final authority on the issue of divestment.

Forty-three percent of the undergraduate population voted in support of divestment in the YCC referendum.

Comments