Fossil Fuel Divestment

It’s wrong to profit from wrecking the climate!

Since its inception in the fall of 2012, the fossil fuel divestment campaign has spread like wildfire across the country and the world.  The goals of the movement are to:

  • Create space for carbon restrictive legislation
  • Generate support for investments in a broad range of alternatives
  • Stigmatize the fossil fuel industry

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So far, the divestment movement has spread to over 350 campuses and over 100 community institutions, including pension funds, churches, and municipalities.  Investors large and small the world over are now talking about the risks of investing in fossil fuels, and the coal, oil, and gas companies are taking notice! Meanwhile, fossil free investment funds are popping up all over.  

Over 32 colleges and universities, over 40 cities, a growing number of foundations (including the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation), dozens of religious institutions (including the World Council of Churches) and nonprofit organizations, and even some counties have already committed to divestment.

 

2015 in review: The Maine Divestment Team’s efforts

January:  The UMS Board of Trustees voted to divest direct holdings in coal from their endowment, in response to efforts by Divest UMaine.

January:  The Board of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MainePERS) voted unanimously to adopt an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) policy for investments, as a result of legislative work by the Divestment Team the previous year.

February:  The Divestment Team organized an action at the State House (Feb. 13), in conjunction with worldwide divestment actions, which included a public presentation of a letter from people of faith calling for divestment, and a presentation of over 1000 petition signatures to MainePERS calling for them to divest.

February:  The Board of WERU voted to divest their endowment of fossil fuel holdings.

March:  Meaghan LaSala of Divest UMaine and Michael Butler of Bowdoin Climate Action made a presentation about divestment to a number of college and university presidents at the Maine Higher Education Council meeting in Augusta.

April: Holly Zadra and Karen Marysdaughter spoke at an after-church meeting at the Bangor Unitarian Universalist church, which subsequently voted to divest.

May:  The University of Maine Faculty Senate voted in support of divestment.

May:  A resolution of the Maine Education Association Representative Assembly in favor of having MainePERS divest was narrowly defeated. Divestment Team members worked with a delegation of concerned teachers to write the resolution and conducted outreach to teachers.

August:  A delegation of a few teachers met with CEO and CIO of MainePERS to discuss divestment.

October:  The United Church of Christ annual meeting passed a resolution calling on the conference to move their endowment investments to sustainable endeavors.

October:  Andy Burt worked with leadership in the Maine Episcopal Diocese to see about getting a resolution on the agenda at their annual meeting, but it didn’t happen this time.

November: Divest UMaine won a student senate endorsement of full divestment.

Throughout the year: Andy interviewed and filmed several activists from the Divestment movement in Maine. The film was first shown publicly in Damariscotta on the evening of the national Divestment Day. 

The Divestment Team supported student activities for divestment on several Maine campuses, such as standing with Bowdoin students whose representatives organized a meeting with the College trustees to present their case for divestment.

 

CAMPUS DIVESTMENT

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In September 2013, students from across the state formed Maine Students for Climate Justice, a student-run coalition dedicated to addressing climate change. One of MSCJ's first projects is to divest more Maine schools from fossil fuels.  With Unity College and College of the Atlantic two of the first schools in the country to divest, Maine students are eager to stay at the forefront of this national movement.  In April of 2015 they held the first ever student climate rally in Augusta with 300 high school and college students demanding a stop to new fossil fuel infrastructure and policies to support a clean energy economy.

In a historic decision, on January 26, 2015 the University of Maine System Board of Trustees  voted unanimously to divest their endowment of direct holdings in coal.  At the same time, the University of Maine at Presque Isle Foundation announced they had completely divested from fossil fuels.  In May of 2015, the UMaine Faculty Senate passed a resolution urging the BoT to fully divest.  Bowdoin Climate Action had a positive meeting with their Board early in 2015 but after months of no response, they escalated their campaign in April with a 3-day sit in.   Faculty are organizing on campuses as well.

Learn more about the campaigns at UMaine, Bowdoin, Bates, Colby, and University of New England.  Alumni can click here to learn how to support student divestment campaigns.

COMMUNITY DIVESTMENT

State & Municipal Divestment - The 350 Maine Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign is calling on the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MainePERS) to divest.  Although Maine state law limits municipal investment in the stock market, some municipalities may have exposure to fossil fuels.  Check out these Talking Points to understand why municipalities should be concerned about fossil fuel investments.  Since many municipal employees and most public school teachers are invested in the state pension system, we are also encouraging them to ask MainePERS to divest.  The Maine Educational Association voted on a fossil fuel divestment resolution in May, 2015, which was narrowly defeated.

350 Maine is currently working with the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MainePERS), churches, municipalities, foundations and nonprofits on fossil fuel divestment. To sign an open letter from people of faith about divestment, click here.  To start a campaign in your town, read this letter from the 350Maine Divestment Team.

 

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RESOURCES

 

MAINE DIVESTMENT COMMITMENTS

Unity College

College of the Atlantic

University of Maine at Presque Isle Foundation

University of Maine System (coal divestment)

Maine College of Art (coal divestment)

Maine Council of Churches

First Unitarian Church of Pittsfield

Norway Unitarian Universalist Church

Switzer Family Foundation

Island Institute

Funeral Consumers Alliance

WERU Community Radio

York Community Initiatives Fund

Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Castine