UW Board of Directors and Fossil Free UW discuss climate “inaction”

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Representatives of UW’s Board of Directors met with Fossil Free UW on Oct.29 at the Ira Needles building for a board meeting. 

They aimed to reach a consensus on the long-debated policies regarding UW’s climate change policies, concluding with the Board signing on the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investing (UNPRI).

Both Fossil Free UW and the Board realized the urgency of the matter. Discourse and questioning periods for the event were rooted in Fossil Free UW’s concern for what they called the university’s negligence towards the UNPRI. 

“The board seems to be avoiding this commitment,” Petra Duff, a member of Fossil Free UW, said. 

“The climate crisis is the defining emergency of our generation. The university president claims to be ‘committed to tackling climate change at the institutional level’ in his message praising students and faculty attending the climate strike. Where is this commitment in their investments? This silence is an outrage, and we won’t take it quietly,” she said.

Students from Fossil Free UW protested against UW’s climate inaction with signs and banners as the board discussed their take on UNPRI and its place within their policies for the upcoming year. 

This included discussing investments to companies that are well-known producers of carbon emissions. These companies include BP, Total, Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell, which have been receiving $68 million in investments from the university.

Fossil Free UW has been lobbying for divestment over the past five years, with their first large scale organized initiative being the WESEF divestment vote of 2015. 

Since then, Fossil Free UW has taken to launching a series of initiatives aiming for divestment with the Oct. 29 conference being yet another victory along their path. 

The board chair requested the Finance Investment Committee to contine considering  UW’s investments in fossil fuels and has agreed to take a policy-central approach to UNPRI. 

President Hamadullahpur thanked students that arrived at the meeting and brought awareness of the issue to the board. He said the decision is not as simple as it appears. 

“[Fossil Free UW will] continue to engage in dialogue [with the board],” Lesley Johnston, another member of the initiative, said. 

Fossil Free UW hopes to convince the Financial Investment Committee that companies UW invests in are companies primarily focused upon business—not clean energy.