Feb 12, 2015


Divest UW "Mock-Wedding" UW Marries Coal Industry, Friday February 13th

By Aden Kinne

Join University of Washington’s student organization, Divest UW, for a day of fun action in UW's Red Square on Friday February 13th,  12:10 in front of Suzzallo Library.   Divest will hold a mock wedding, potentially (you’ll have to come to see) binding the University to the Fossil Fuel industry.

Students will wear fossil-fuel-divestment orange or husky-pride purple, come with some objections to the unholy union, and participate in an aerial photo afterwards.

So, is the UW Married to Coal?

What is the most harmful industry in the world? The answer is coal. Will the UW remove its investments in the coal industry? We will find out in March when the Board of Regents is set to discuss whether it will divest the university from coal.

For those not in the know, fossil fuel divestment is the fastest growing divestment movement in history. It demands that individuals and institutions, such as universities, city governments, pension funds, banks and religious institutions, divest from the fossil fuel industry. Seattle was the first city to commit to fossil fuel divestment in 2012. Since then students with Divest UW have been campaigning to get the university to remove its investment in the fossil fuel industry and,  now, particularly, the coal industry. So why divest from coal? 

1)     Coal is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
As Oxford economics professor Dieter Helm argues, “t
he overwhelmingly immediate question in climate change is how to stop and then reverse the dash-for-coal, and to do it quickly in order to tackle climate change”. A recent study in Nature showed that if we are to meet the globally agreed upon temperature target of keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial temperatures, that we will need to keep 80% of coal reserves unexploited.

2)     Coal is a racist unjust killer
Coal contains a slew of toxic substances which leach into our water, pollute our air and harm public health, leading to the death and suffering of millions each year. Coal’s harmful air pollution and water and soil contamination fall disproportionately on communities of color and minorities. Doubling down on injustice, the impacts of climate change also fall disproportionately on the poor and vulnerable.

3)     Coal is not a great investment
Coal has underperformed the market drastically over the past five years, and is arguably set to continue its decline as renewable energy becomes increasingly competitive and demand for coal wanes. Mark Lewis, one of Europe’s leading financial analysts, estimates that if we are to keep global temperatures within the internationally agreed upon target of two degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial levels), that the coal industry will face losses of $4.9 trillion in the next twenty years.

4)     We can do better
Numerous studies from the likes of Stanford University and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have shown that we can transition to clean energy and phase out coal, and that we can do so while ensuring robust economic growth and much better job creation too. Recognizing this Washington State has committed to phasing out coal. However, in other parts of the US the clean energy transition is not going so smoothly.

5)     What’s stopping us from a clean energy future?
The fossil fuel industry is spending billions of dollars spreading misinformation, lobbying and corrupting the democratic process in order to halt the transition to clean energy, kill environmental regulation and protect its own profits over the future of people and the planet. That’s why the divestment movement is standing up against the industry and committing to a clean energy future that doesn’t sacrifice a healthy planet for the sake of the profits of the fossil fuel industry. UW can make an important statement that it is no longer willing to contribute to the corruption, lobbying and harm associated with the coal industry.

6)     Students Support Divestment
Both the ASUW and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate have voted in favor of divesting from coal. We are the ones who will have to live with the effects of climate change and whose future our institutions are supposed to serve. It is morally suspect and arguably hypocritical for an institution as committed to sustainability to continue to invest in an industry that aims to undermine our future. We need to stop investing in climate failure.

Is the UW committed to continuing its investments in the deeply harmful coal industry or can we break that unholy union? Join Divest UW 13th of February at 12:10pm in Red Square, where they will test whether UW should continue its union or not.  Join in sending a message of hope out loud and clear to politicians, the university, and the fossil fuel industry alike: let's make fossil fuels history.

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