Students governments call for universities to divest from fossil fuels

The Association of Big Ten Students unanimously voted for schools across the nation to stop investments in coal, oil and gas companies.

by Samantha Hendrickson

In a national effort to fight climate change, student governments nationwide are calling for their universities to stop investments in the fossil fuel industry. 

The Association of Big Ten Students, which represents over 500,000 undergraduate students across the Big Ten conference, unanimously passed a resolution late last month for their schools to stop investing in oil, coal and gas companies.

The University of Minnesota declined to comment on whether it invests in the fossil fuel industry.

The resolution stated that the crisis of climate change threatens the lives of both future and current generations and “demands concerted and widespread action from society’s leaders.”

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor instigated the resolution after the city of Ann Arbor declared a climate emergency in November. Declaring a climate emergency means that not enough is being done to address climate change and gives entities more power to help with the issue.

“We knew this was definitely relevant across all Big Ten schools,” said Aidan Sova, ABTS executive director and student at the University of Michigan. “This was not just a Michigan-unique problem.” 

The University of Minnesota implemented a plan in 2011 to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by the end of this year and offset 100% of emissions by 2050. 

The City of Minneapolis declared a climate emergency in December. In an effort to take that declaration a step further, Megan Connor, Minnesota Student Association’s sustainability chair, will ask the University to declare a climate emergency for the campus. 

“By saying that there’s a climate emergency, that says a lot about not only we’re willing to provide a curriculum that says how to change it, but we’re actually willing to do it ourselves,” Connor said. 

Savannah Wery, founder of UMN Climate Strike, said it is up to the student body to put pressure on administrators for the changes they wish to see surrounding sustainability and climate change. 

“That’s a form of power that we have,” Wery said. “No administrator likes the feeling of unrest on campus.” 

The UMN Climate Strike asks for the University to stop investing in any company on the Carbon Underground 200 list, which encompasses the top 100 gas and oil companies and top 100 coal companies that contribute carbon emissions, such as ExxonMobil. 

“I think that as time goes on, it becomes more and more evident. This is an immediate threat as we continue putting funds into these sources,” Sova said.