April 26, 2016 / 11:25 PM / 4 years ago

Stanford climate activists slam university over fossil fuel vote

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Stanford University’s announcement on Monday that it will not rid its $22 billion endowment of oil and gas companies has raised the ire of campus climate activists, who said on Tuesday they will protest the decision.

The logo of Exxon Mobil Corporation is shown on a monitor above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Activists felt they had momentum on their side after Stanford two years ago said it would no longer invest in coal mining companies, whose products are a major contributor to global climate change.

But the Stanford Board of Trustees said on Monday it was not clear that the social injury caused by the companies outweighs the social benefit of providing energy to billions of people around the world.

The university said it would have sold holdings in companies that specialize in producing crude from oil sands, a carbon-intensive extraction method. But since the endowment has no direct exposure to those companies, no action needed to be taken.

The University of California last year agreed to sell off about $200 million in direct holdings in coal and oil sands companies.

Stanford’s Board of Trustees said that while it will not divest from fossil fuel companies, it would set up a climate task force to solicit ideas from across the Stanford community to address climate change.

The board also said the university has taken steps to reduce energy use on campus and use more renewable energy.

That was insufficient to satisfy activists who were pushing for bolder action.

“We feel hurt and disappointed that the Stanford administration has chosen to remain invested in fossil fuel companies, in climate injustice, and in the destruction of our future,” said Sophie Harrison, a student and organizer of Fossil Free Stanford.

More than 100 students are expected to protest a scheduled speech on Wednesday by Stanford President John Hennessy, Harrison said.

Fossil fuel divestment is a hot topic in California.

Last year Governor Jerry Brown signed a law requiring the state’s two large public pension funds – the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System – to sell all direct coal holdings.

Pressure is building on Calpers to divest from ExxonMobil Corp after two California congressmen last month accused the company of “morally reprehensible conduct” tied to allegations that it covered up information on the environmental dangers of excess carbon dioxide emissions for decades.

Editing by Matthew Lewis

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