University of North Carolina: DIVEST FROM COAL
Coal Divestment will be a good beginning in our effort to fight UNC's reputation as an irresponsible steward of our endowment funds.
On Campus Sustainability Day, The Daily Tar Heel published a strong editorial in support of our Coal Divestment campaign, taking UNC to task for failing to account for the university’s $2.2 billion endowment in its 2011 Campus Sustainability Report:
UNC still refuses to address its endowment transparency issues and prove that it isn’t investing in the worst corporate polluters, claiming it could hurt investment returns. It’s time for UNC to see that its impact on the environment spreads beyond campus and realize that it has the potential to make the planet and its balance sheet greener.
Why should UNC consider divesting from coal-fired utilities and coal mining companies?
Because mining and burning coal damages America's health.
Every year in the United States, there are 21,000 deaths, 24,000 hospitalizations, and 280,000 severe asthma attacks attributable to the impacts of mining and burning coal. Damages from the coal industry cause an estimated $100 billion in healthcare costs in the U.S. every year. As a world leader in healthcare education, UNC needs to take notice of these statistics and bring our investment practices inline with our mission statement which reads:
With lux, libertas—light and liberty—as its founding principles, the University has charted a bold course of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems.
The coal industry is one of these problems. Mining and burning coal is killing people. That is why Chancellor Thorp agreed to shut down the coal plant on campus. Divesting from the coal industry will enhance our reputation in the academic community and increase our university’s ability to attract and retain high caliber faculty, students, and staff.
Because mining and burning coal for energy damages the environment.
Coal-fired power plants contribute to increased mercury, particulate, and arsenic groundwater contamination, as well as increases in smog, acid rain, and regional haze. Coal is the largest U.S. contributor to greenhouse gas pollution worldwide.
Because coal is a risky financial investment.
More than half of the coal plants in the U.S. are old, inefficient, and require major costly retrofits to continue their operations. And because of the volatility of the price of coal and the rising cost of extraction, coal-fired electricity is fast-becoming a financial loser, one that is being replaced by more sustainable, long-term alternative energy solutions. We are asking the Board of Trustees to divest UNC from this volatile industry to protect the future of the university. This is not just about protecting the environment. It is about protecting UNC's assets.Coal investments could make sense if they were a guaranteed way for the endowment to make money, but investments in coal are on the decline. Help us get the university's endowment out of the coal industry before regulations and commodity risk make coal economically unviable.
Chancellor Thorp has been unwilling to work with us on this divestment campaign but he has been vocal about the dangers of coal:
We agreed with the students and the Sierra Club that we should get away from coal, but it took some big thinking to come up with a way that makes financial sense.
Universities must lead the transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy.
During Chancellor Fordham's time at UNC, he was faced with a similar decision to make about social justice when he decided to sign off on UNC's divestment from the Apartheid Regime of South Africa. Here is what Chancellor Fordham said about South African divestment:
The divestment was done carefully and responsibly...without violence to the portfolio. It contributed one small, little scintilla to the overall sanctions which this country undertook. And so we were part of what turned out to be a reasonably effective and humane effort.
I bet Chancellor Thorp will be able to say the same thing about Coal Divestment. Support the effort to move UNC's endowment BEYOND COAL- ask Chancellor Thorp to start talking about UNC's endowment today.
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