5Cs consider divestment from fossil fuels

By Katherine Goree ‘16Staff Writer

The 5C endowment is nearly $3 billion. Part of it is invested in fossil fuel companies--those in the business of coal, oil, and natural gas. However, many 5C community members see the colleges’ investment in fossil fuel companies as contrary to the schools’ values and wish to divest from fossil fuel. Divesting would mean not investing in fossil fuel companies in the future, as well as selling any current fossil fuel holdings.

The Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign, which began last semester, wants to divest the Claremont Colleges endowment from the fossil fuel industry in the next five years. The campaign has garnered attention from media sources such as “The New York Times” and “Rolling Stone.”

The campaign is especially intent on eliminating companies on gofossilfree.org’s list of Top 200 Fossil Fuel Companies from the endowment. The list is roughly ordered by the amount of carbon dioxide that the companies release into the atmosphere. Severstal, a Russian coal mining and steel company, tops the list. Other companies on the list include American oil companies Exxon Mobil Corp., BP PLC, and Chevron Corp.

On Monday, Feb. 11, the campaign hosted a panel of 5C students and professors to discuss the pros and cons of divestment.

The panelists had different opinions as to whether divestment would be worthwhile. John Jurewitz, energy economist at Pomona College and William Ascher, economics and government professor at Claremont McKenna College, said that divesting the 5C endowment would not impact fossil fuel companies. The companies, according to Jurewitz and Ascher, are so large and have such high revenue that they do not depend on the schools’ investment for financial support.

Most panelists agreed that divestment alone is not enough to help slow climate change. A few said that the 5C community needs to push for more environmental policy, such as cap and trade taxes on fossil fuel, at high levels of government.

Some community members believe that, even though the colleges may not be able to put a dent in fossil fuel companies, divestment is the right moral action to take.

The different colleges are in the process of working with their trustees to achieve a solution. Though nothing has yet been decided in regards to divestment, the process of reaching a conclusive stance is underway.