Despite preaching the perils of climate change in the classroom and promoting values of stewardship, Georgetown University invests part of its endowment in the fossil fuel industry.

Georgetown University Fossil Free published an op-ed in The Hoya five years ago to publicize its proposal calling on the university to divest from fossil fuels. As the op-ed argued, Georgetown’s role as a values-based educator is disconnected from its investment practices.

Five years later, Georgetown still has not divested from fossil fuels. Yet the urgency of climate change has only grown, and we have not lost sight of our original objective. If Georgetown is serious about its rhetorical commitment to environmental stewardship, it must immediately divest from the entire fossil fuel industry.

GUFF’s newest proposal, submitted Jan. 17, advocates for this goal. It proposes immediately freezing all new direct investments in the fossil fuel industry, along with a five-year timeline to work with fund managers to divest from all such investments it currently holds. This proposal represents a shift from our last full divestment proposal in 2013, which recommended divesting from only the top 200 fossil fuel companies over a two-year period.

Divestment is a clear statement that the industry or firm is not an acceptable source of profit and that an institution cannot ethically provide seed money for harmful projects. By continuing to invest in fossil fuels, Georgetown is actively supporting environmental degradation. Oil and gas companies are the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for roughly half of the global temperature increases between 1980 and 2016. Coupled with records of habitat destruction and mistreatment of communities where they work, the fossil fuel industry is not an ethical investment, yet Georgetown’s continued investment is sending a message of indifference.

On some levels, Georgetown clearly recognizes the extremely detrimental effects of climate change. Our professors teach about their numerous research projects about the seismic consequences of global warming. Our curriculum reflects it by offering courses on the interdisciplinary study of climate change through the Core Pathways program. Our campus is moving to become greener with LEED-certified buildings and a functional composting system. But improving a floundering recycling program can only mean so much while simultaneously investing students’ tuition in oil and gas companies.

Changing this investment practice will not require sacrificing Georgetown’s financial security. Rather, it will free our $1.6 billion endowment from energy commodity investments, the value of which many consider volatile and hard to predict in the long term. Stranded assets, reserves of oil and gas that will eventually become impossible to extract and are estimated to inflate fossil fuel companies’ values by $20 trillion.

Peer institutions that have divested have remained financially stable. In fact, Syracuse University has seen a 12 percent growth in its $1.25 billion endowment since divesting. Both Middlebury College, with its endowment of $1.1 billion, and our fellow Jesuit institution, Seattle University, have decided to divest in the past year and could act as financial models when Georgetown follows their lead.

Student organizers have been at the forefront to reduce the university’s carbon footprint, even as the university continues to fund climate change. GUFF and its partner organizations have supported renewed on-campus sustainability efforts, ranging from measures to reduce single-use plastic to the new Laudato Si grant to encourage student-led environmental projects. Georgetown must match these efforts with an endowment that reflects our responsibility to combat climate change.

Celia Buckman is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and a member of Georgetown University Fossil Free.

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