After years of trying, climate change activists have finally succeeded in getting UVM to divest its endowment fund of fossil fuel stocks. How will this impact UVM’s already shaky financial outlook? And what’s next - the state pension fund?
“Fossil-fuel divestment – according to the UVM website, “On July 14 the University of Vermont’s Board of Trustees voted to divest the University’s endowment of fossil fuel investments. It was a unanimous decision and it was in keeping with UVM’s ongoing commitment to sustainability focused policy and environmental research. The decision means that UVM will end new direct investment in fossil fuels. And it will fully divest from public investments in fossil fuels by July 2023.”
A 2017 divestment study commissioned by Vermont Treasurer Beth Pearce reports that fossil fuel divestment ties fund managers’ hands, subtracts blue chip stocks that create longterm value, and does little to reduce carbon emissions. That’s because divestment merely shifts ownership to another buyer. Divestment does not make fossil fuel companies “go away” – it merely allows the divester to wash his/her hands of ownership. But even this act of cleansing purification has a practical climate change downside: no ownership means no more influence on corporate policy. UVM will no longer be able to saunter into Exxon stockholder meetings and demand change."
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