Institutional Climate Action at the University of Washington
What is Divestment (from Fossil Fuels)?
Divestment is simply reversing the decision to invest in a morally reprehensible company or industry; for example fossil fuels, the prison and military industrial complexes, Darfur’s genocide, Israeli apartheid, etc.
How is the University of Washington implicated?
UW has a six billion dollar endowment used mostly for research. The Consolidated Endowment Fund (CEF) sits at around $4.7bn as of June 2021. Donors, such as generous Alumni, or motivated industries contribute to the CEF which is pooled and invested by a privately run investment company (UWINCO) into various mutual funds and more direct investments. UWINCO ultimately decides how to invest the gifts based on the UW Board of Regents’ (BOR) investment policy. By 2016 UW had voted to selectively divest from injustices such as South African apartheid, the Darfur genocide, and direct investments in thermal coal.
As of 2021, however, at least $124M is invested in fossil fuels: 30% directly into master limited partnerships (MLPs) to develop infrastructure like fossil fuel pipelines and another 70% in mixed holdings of which we have little to no say on how or where it is spent by fossil fuel companies.
Why does UW’s investment policy matter?
UWINCO has argued that pipelines are a sound investment for our future; natural gas has been presented as a needed “bridge fuel” with hydrogen to follow. Yet natural gas was the
, and causing heat stress in thousands more. The negative impacts on people go much deeper than climate catastrophe, however. The air pollution from the fossil fuel industry alone is responsible for upwards of
who have shown resistance. Can UW tacitly comply with a physical legacy of such violence?
Who are we?
Institutional Climate Action (ICA) - is a climate justice divestment coalition made up of students, faculty, and staff from Washington State’s publicly funded higher education institutions. We are organizing in solidarity for divestment from fossil fuel companies. We believe that our public institutions of higher education must model the equitable and just transition that’s required to confront the climate crisis and establish a more healthy and sustainable future.
What are our demands?
Declare the Climate Crisis as an emergency that requires a just response
Implement sustainable changes on campus to equitably address the climate crisis
Divest all endowments & pensions from fossil fuel investments by 2025
Re-invest at least 2.5% of endowments and/or pensions into equitable climate solutions
Commit to carbon neutrality by 2030 and zero carbon emissions by 2040
What actions are we taking?
In February 2021 ICA submitted a nearly 30 page petition to the UW Board of Regents (BOR) to move forward with our demands. This set in motion the process for divestment, followed in July by the Board’s agreement to convene an advisory committee (ACSRI) after pressure from ICA’s supporters. The ACSRI is ultimately tasked with reviewing the evidence and making a recommendation on investing policy concerning fossil fuels and a just transition, to the Board. The timeline is unclear, but per BOR policy, they will consult both the ACSRI decision and UWINCO’s input. ICA has also presented our insights, despite the ACSRI meetings being closed to the general public. More updates are expected towards the end of the academic year. ICA continues to focus on mobilizing the community of support for an equitable green future, with workshops, direct action, civic engagement and partnerships with other organizations advocating for climate justice.
Who is supporting ICA?
We currently have over 1700 signatures of community members supporting our initiative, endorsements from over 35 RSOs at UW, and have garnered official support from ASUW Seattle, ASUW Bothell, ASUW Tacoma, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and the Faculty Senate. In Seattle we are collaborating with social and climate justice groups to help lead informational and educational events and direct actions.
How can I get more involved?
Even though it sounds like a cliché, every signature counts! Share this information and our
with your peers/coworkers and join our initiative to call for divestment. If you want to help mobilize your community to support the divestment movement, whether by writing letters to the editor, running a signature drive, or an educational event please reach out! We hold weekly (currently virtual) meetings on Fridays at 4 PM (Pacific time), feel free to join in to support our outreach efforts using