News Staff Writer
Students from UNC Asheville will represent UNCA Divest, a student organization dedicated to divesting the university from fossil fuels, at the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The summit will host an array of climate change and environmental related events, including an affiliate event called The Divest/Invest State of the Movement press conference.
“We are pushing to remove the school’s holdings in fossil fuel companies,” said Kelsey Hall, environmental policy management student and co-coordinator for UNCA Divest.
The strategy for achieving their goal is to pool endowments from other UNC schools with a management firm not investing in fossil fuels. UNC management company’s services are worked individually with each interested school in the UNC system, which means UNCA can make a decision as a school to no longer buy services from them without needing other schools to follow suit. The idea is that if UNCA pulls away from UNC management company and finds other more sustainable investment firms whilst continuing to see returns, other UNC system schools will notice and follow suit.
James Smith, chemistry and environmental communications student and co-coordinator for the divest campaign, said UNCA and other UNC system schools pool their endowments with the UNC management company, totaling $5 billion.
Smith explained the UNC management company invests across a spectrum of asset classes, one of those being energy and natural resources. The management company invests 5 to 10 percent of their $5 billion endowments into that sector where a predominance of fossil fuels remain. UNCA Divest was chosen to be a part of this press conference due to their connection with the greater UNC system and the implications of a cross-system divestment movement, according to Smith.
Because other states have similar thoughts on endowment investments, UNCA Divest hopes to bring their model to the national and worldwide levels, spreading their strategy to other university divestment campaigns.
UNCA Divest is excited to have Smith present at the upcoming divest/invest press conference. Natalie Izlar, environmental studies student and environmental student governance fund coordinator for UNCA divest, said having their campaign present at the summit looks toward positive change.
“Divest was reignited in the past four years or so and it is only now that we have made such headway with the administration to be able to participate in something like this. It is an exciting time to be a part of this movement and it feels amazing to be making a difference. The fact UNCA is sanctioning a student to go speak at a conference is incredibly encouraging for our movement,” Izlar said.
This optimism about the conference and the campaigns future in general has Smith, Hall and Izlar believing that divestment certainly is possible within the next five years.
“Yes, I believe that UNC Asheville will be on the track to pulling our investments from the fossil fuel industry and putting towards more sustainable and impactful investments. The ball is rolling and our administration has been a great ally in this process,” Izlar said.
Progress toward their most important goal manifests beyond the summit. Requests for proposals will be going out soon, according to Hall. In spring, Hall hopes that UNCA will have vendors present and offer their services, a major step toward accomplishing divestment from the fossil fuel industry by UNCA.
By presenting in San Francisco, Smith and UNCA Divest have hopes of their model being utilized elsewhere, both nationally and internationally.