City may adopt new fossil fuel stance

City officials want Minneapolis to take a stand against non-renewable energy.

City may adopt new fossil fuel stance

Nick Wicker

A group of students and other Minneapolis residents gathered at City Hall on Monday in support of the city’s continued divestment from fossil fuels and urged other state agencies to follow.

City officials passed a motion at a Health, Environment, and Community Engagement Committee meeting that asks the city to take a clear stance against the use of high-carbon energy and refrain from investing in fossil fuel corporations in the future. It also aims to push other bodies, including the state of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota, to divest.

Councilmembers Cam Gordon and Alondra Cano, of Wards 2 and 9 respectively, proposed the resolution, which the full council will vote on March 20. 

More than 15 students and community members were present for the hearing portion of the meeting, and six speakers were current or former University students.

Cano said the turnout at Monday’s public hearing was a sign of support for the resolution. She said she’s proud of the young people who speak out against fossil fuels, and the priority of this resolution was to establish the city’s stance against fossil fuel companies.

If the state were to pass legislation and approve divestment, Gordon said, it would be following the precedent set in the 1980s when Minnesota divested from apartheid South Africa.

Noah Shavit-Lonstein, an officer of the University student group Fossil Free Minnesota, said it’s important to get people in positions of power to pressure other groups to divest, causing a ripple effect.

Shavit-Lonstein said Fossil Free Minnesota started with the help of Minnesota 350, a nonprofit dedicated to divestment from fossil fuels.

He said the plan to get the city to support divestment started last year when Minnesota 350 and Fossil Free Minnesota contacted city officials.

Patty O’Keefe, divestment coordinator for Minnesota 350, said Fossil Free Minnesota and the proposal are all part of the same movement.

Minnesota 350 started in 2010 to combat climate change, O’Keefe said, but the push for divestment from coal, oil and natural gas gained traction in 2012.

“Climate change is threatening all life on this planet … including humans, and the fossil fuel industry is … driving us further and further into this crisis,” O’Keefe said.

At the committee meeting Monday, O’Keefe said $50 billion is currently dedicated to divestment nationwide. And although the motion by city officials is largely only symbolic, she said it’s a step in the right direction.

“The city of Minneapolis, along with its residents and activists and organizers are leaders in this area,” Cano said. “Being a leader isn’t easy … it’s really important that we take this step and show the nation that this can be done.”