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UW Alumni & Friends Call For UW Foundation (UW-Madison) To Divest From Fossil Fuels

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An Open Letter from University of Wisconsin Alumni and Friends to the UW Foundation: Please Divest From Fossil Fuels Now. Help Protect Future Generations from Further Climate Change Devastation.

Fall 2015

We address you as alumni and friends of the University of Wisconsin Madison. We come from all walks of life and all colleges of the University.

We have in common the fear that human-caused climate change puts life as we know it in grave danger. Droughts, floods, and storms augmented by climate change will continue to disrupt lives and economies, hitting the poor the hardest. Current scientific knowledge is authoritatively summarized in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) released in 2014.[1] Reliance on fossil fuels to drive the world’s economy is the primary contributor to human-caused climate change.

We also have in common confidence that citizens and scholars will act on the moral imperative to avert catastrophe.

The signatories of this open letter call on the governing board of the UW Foundation to divest from fossil fuels. Specifically, we call upon the UW Foundation board to freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies, and within five years to divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds. We further call upon the UW Foundation to develop new investment strategies that prioritize renewable energy sources and clean technologies. These renewable energy sources and clean technologies will help keep the planet safe for future generations and they are already financially competitive with fossil fuels. [2]

We believe there is an inherent contradiction between the University’s and UW Foundation’s mission statements and the UW Foundation’s continued investments in fossil fuels. The University’s mission is to: “…help ensure the survival of this and future generations and improve the quality of life for all.”[3] Furthermore, the UW Foundation’s mission “…guarantees ethical stewardship of gifts received.”[4]

As is suggested in the IPPC Fifth Assessment Report, continued investment in fossil fuels neither helps ensure the survival of future generations nor improves quality of life. Such investments contribute to a degraded and dangerous future and are incompatible with ethical stewardship. This university’s future should be staked on investments in a livable future, not firms whose business model depends on exacerbating climate change.

We consider divestment to be a rational and logical part of the UW Foundation’s fiduciary responsibility. Reliable sources question the current and future economic viability of the fossil fuel industry.[5] [6] The Economist Intelligence Unit, International Monetary Fund and other financial institutions warn of a “carbon bubble,” in which continued investment in fossil fuel companies will result in trillions of dollars of lost capital.[7] [8]

As concerned alumni and friends of UW-Madison, we are diverting our Annual Fund donations to the Multi School Fossil Free Divestment Fund, which is invested in fossil free mutual funds. [9] Our donations will be released to the UW Foundation when the UW Foundation divests from fossil fuels. In this way we add alumni voices and dollars to the call for divestment from fossil fuels.

The signatories of this letter acknowledge and commend the University for the steps it has already taken to address climate change. We encourage the continued implementation of efficient and sustainable technologies and practices by everyone in the campus community. Furthermore, we understand divestment is not a “silver bullet” to address climate change. It is one solution to a multifaceted problem. But it is a necessary and urgently needed step the UW Foundation must take to comply with both your mission statement and fiduciary responsibilities as well as the mission of the University.

*All signatories are listed here as individual citizens, expressing their constitutionally protected freedom of speech. University affiliations are listed for identification purposes only, and do not connote endorsement by those units.

You can find more information on the UW Foundation (UW-Madison) fossil fuel divestment campaign at (










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