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Colleges are Divesting From Fossil Fuels

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

A few weeks ago, I opened my daily email from BU Today to find an exciting article: “Boston University to Divest From Fossil Fuels.” According to this article, divesting means that “BU will phase out any investments in companies that extract oil and natural gas. The University’s endowment, more than $3 billion, will not have any direct investments in fossil fuel companies. Instead, investing in support of fossil fuel-free energy production will be a priority.” 

The decision is a massive win for student activist groups on campus, like DivestBU, which has spent many years meeting with the BU administration in support of divestment policies. The day BU’s new policy was announced, my Instagram feed was filled with student posts in overwhelming agreement with the decision. In the BU Today article, Robert Brown, the president of BU, said, “This is putting us on the right side of history.”

The fossil fuel industry plays a significant role in accelerating and worsening the effects of climate change. ClientEarth states that “In 2018, 89% of global CO2 emissions came from fossil fuels and industry.” To limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, after which there would be substantial harm to biodiversity, sea-level rise, and human health, “fossil fuel emissions must be halved within 11 years.” BU Today writes that the goal of the divestment movement is to “stigmatize money that bolsters” the industry and encourage companies to transition to renewable energy sources. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, there is also some financial incentive for colleges to divest — “Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp. have lost nearly half of their value since the start of 2018.” 

So why is there still debate surrounding the divestment movement? A Washington Post article explains that “some argue that it might be better to shape the behavior of the oil and gas companies from the inside, as shareholders who can push for greener decisions because they are part-owners of the businesses.” 

It’s true that if only one institution implemented divestment policies, it would be difficult to impact large companies like ExxonMobile and Chevron significantly. But BU Today notes that “there is a growing coalition of over 1,300 schools and institutions — including Harvard University earlier this month — that have released plans to stop investing in fossil fuel-related industries.” 

It’s reasonable for investors to question whether withdrawal or continued engagement is more effective in creating change within the fossil fuel industry. But if enough colleges and universities divest, they can definitely make waves. 

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Maddie is a freshman at BU studying Business Administration and is so excited to be writing for Her Campus this year! Outside of school, Maddie competes as a member of Team USA for Synchronized Ice Skating.
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