Who We Are
Fossil Free Yale is a group of Yalies organizing for climate justice on Yale’s campus. We are fighting for Yale to divest its $28 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry. We are part of a global student movement to divest universities from fossil fuels, alongside thousands working to divest endowments belonging to governments, places of worship, schools, and private foundations. This movement is powerful and growing — 902 institutions have committed to divesting $6.2 trillion from the fossil fuel industry worldwide. You can read our January 2016 report on divestment here.
What We Believe
- Continued use of and investment in fossil fuels are untenable for a livable, just future on this planet. It is immoral for Yale to continue supporting the destruction caused by this industry.
- Climate change most directly impacts communities that are already marginalized, such as indigenous people, people of color, low-income communities, and people living in low-income countries. For this reason, we must challenge the fossil fuel industry not only for creating climate change, but also for perpetuating the injustices facing these oppressed communities.
- Climate change is a present danger, and we must take any and all steps we can to address it as soon as possible.
- The fossil fuel industry must be challenged because of both the extreme amounts of carbon they release into the atmosphere and their direct exploitation of extraction and refinery communities.
- The business model of fossil fuel companies is inherently destructive and cannot improve. Thus we cannot expect to create the necessary change by engaging with these companies: we must divest. These companies have a vested interest in continuing to function as they do because it is profitable. Thus they stand in the way of new solutions.
- Fossil fuel companies have disproportionate impact in contributing to global climate change, when compared with individual consumers, and they must be blamed for the damages they cause.
- Climate change is about more than tetrafluoromethane and carbon dioxide. It is the consequence of a greater system, and stigmatizing the fossil fuel industry will get to the root of this unjust system. Divestment is a tactic that both challenges this system and matches the magnitude of global climate change.
- Fossil fuel divestment is a powerful tactic, not in that it attempts to financially injure the companies, but in that it is a moral and political action taken to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry.
- Fossil fuel divestment has already succeeded in shifting public discourse and policy solutions around climate change and will continue to do so as the movement spreads.
- Investments in fossil fuels are investments in the destruction of our future as students and young people. As an institution that claims to be preparing leaders and building for the future, Yale must consider the impacts its investing practices will have for our generation.
- Yale must be a leader on climate justice and not just sustainability. Yale’s sustainability initiatives are important and exciting. However, not only are they inadequate in addressing the problem of climate change, but they also fail to account for the injustices the fossil fuel industry inflicts on communities more directly.
- At Yale, statements that we make will be both influential and meaningful beyond our walls. Thus, we have the unique position and responsibility to challenge the fossil fuel industry. It is extremely powerful and wealthy, and it needs an opponent that also has a lot of clout. We can be that opponent.
- It is in line with the values of the Yale community to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in a just and stable future for all.
Where We’ve Been
Fossil Free Yale was founded in the fall of 2012. We spent the first months of the campaign developing a strong report for fossil fuel divestment presented to the Yale Corporation.
In November 2013, the Yale College Council conducted a referendum that resulted in 83% of student voters declaring their support of fossil fuel divestment at Yale. This was the first referendum in Yale history.
Following this, Fossil Free Yale worked closely with the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR), which recommended parts of our proposal for divestment to the Corporate Committee on Investor Responsibility (CCIR).
On August 27, 2014, the Yale Corporate Committee on Investor Responsibility rejected our proposal for divestment from fossil fuels, suppressing student voices.
In spring 2015, Fossil Free Yale joined a coalition of other student activist groups on campus called Unite Yale, consisting of students from the cultural houses, Students Unite Now, and those working for mental health reform.
On April 9th 2015, 49 students sat in Woodbridge Hall requesting that Yale University agree to commit to reopen the conversation on divestment. At 5 pm when the building was scheduled to close, 150 students rallied outside making a human chain around the building. 19 students remained in Woodbridge and were arrested for trespassing.
In January 2016, FFY submitted a new proposal to the ACIR which specified divestment from all companies whose business model depends on the extraction, transportation, and processing of fossil fuels.
In March 2016, we wrote a letter asking for a response to our proposal and an open meeting with the corporation by April 7th.
On April 12, 2016, 13 students held a silent protest inside the keynote address of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on preserving cultural heritage. After holding banners that read “UN supports divestment. Universities: when will you?” Ki-moon stated that he was grateful for FFY’s activism and supported university divestment. After the the talk, over 100 students rallied outside of the event claiming that climate change threatens cultural heritage, and that universities must take action by divesting.
On April 12, Yale also announced they have begun taking steps towards that would lead to partial divestment of approximately $10 million.
Where We Are Now
This movement is powerful. As of September 2018, 902 institutions and local governments totaling over $6.2 trillion have committed to divest! These bodies include Stanford University, the University of Glasgow (United Kingdom), Pitzer College, United Church of Christ, the World Council of Churches, and many more. Additionally, over 58,000 individuals have divested about $5.2 billion. More information on the global movement can be found on gofossilfree.org
Additionally, our targets, major fossil fuel companies, have begun to respond to us. ExxonMobil released a statement on its website attacking the fossil fuel divestment movement and calling it “out of step with reality.” Clearly, the oil giant is feeling threatened. It looks like our movement is getting powerful enough to challenge their dominance!