The Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing will close its survey on whether the University should divest from companies that mine tar sands, a specific type of fossil fuel, on Friday.
This fall ACSRI released an internal proposal that would call for divestment from companies that mine tar sands. The committee said it chose to target tar sands because the process used to extract the fossil fuel is expensive and environmentally damaging, and because the industry stands out in its denial of climate change science.
While students remain divided on the merits of such an approach, activist group Columbia Divest for Climate Justice has criticized the proposal for being inadequate and has pressed students to reject the proposal entirely.
The creation of that proposal comes after the committee rejected two separate proposals that recommended that Columbia divest fully from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies, citing the lack of impact full divestment would have on the fossil fuel industry. Instead, the committee announced that it would focus on proposals that targeted companies that denied the science of climate change.
CDCJ has previously criticized that approach, and this week came out against ACSRI’s tar sands proposal, stating it does not go far enough.
“Unfortunately, the ACSRI's proposal sends the wrong message. In order to stop climate change and other environmental injustices, we must leave a large majority of fossil fuel reserves in the ground—not just tar sands,” CDCJ said on the page of a Facebook event calling for students to reject the proposal.
Students interviewed by Spectator said they both sympathized with CDCJ's push for full divestment and with the merits of ACSRI's newest proposal.
“I think that any sort of removal of any sort of fossil fuel is just a step in the right direction,” Adam Pawlowski, GS ’18, said. “It's better than no leeway, and it's just a start.”
Students like Pawlowski, while accepting ACSRI's proposal as progress, also maintained hope for more victories to come.
“We'll take what we can get for now and keep fighting for more,” said Annika Walters, GS ’19.
Not all students, however, responded positively to the tactic of targeted divestment.
“I feel like this is a cop-out; just doing tar sands is not enough. It's been put off for too long and at this point it needs to be a full divestment. Especially since it has been years that the University has been putting off addressing this issue,” Zoë Berry, SEAS ’19, said. “Especially after all the effort that Divest has put in to enact a more thorough change, the tar sands solution is not a solution.”
Other students, including Jason Chen, CC ’20, maintain a more hopeful view of the new proposal.
“In general,” he said, “I think definitely it's better to have a little bit of change than it is to have nothing at all.”