April 3, 2019
Fossil Free Pitt Coalition
Dear Chancellor Gallagher,
As you are likely aware, nearly a month ago the Student Government Board held a referendum to determine students’ opinion regarding the University’s investments in the fossil fuel industry . An overwhelming majority–91 percent–of votes cast were in favor of divestment from fossil fuels. This clear display of student support for divestment cannot be ignored in the face of impending climate disaster and severe environmental degradation, which disproportionately impact marginalized and racialized communities, including those right here in Allegheny and the surrounding counties.
Despite such widespread student support, the Office of the Chancellor and other administrative bodies have not issued any comment concerning divestment or the student referendum. The Pitt community has demonstrated time and time again that it desires the University of Pittsburgh hold itself accountable to its investments by divesting from fossil fuels. The opinions voiced at the Socially Responsible Investment town halls last Fall, the more than four thousand signatures on the Fossil Free Pitt Coalition’s petition for divestment, and the results of the recent referendum are proof of this. This active support of students, faculty, and alumni stands in contrast to silence from administrators. We find such a lack of response unacceptable. We ask that you release a statement acknowledging the referendum and clarifying the administration’s position on divestment.
Since 2014, the Fossil Free Pitt Coalition has worked to galvanize the University into taking the necessary steps to live up to its claim of community leadership and dedication to research and science. Along with the supporters who have signed our petition, over fifty campus organizations have joined FFPC as coalition members in support of divestment*. After five years of petitioning the Student Government Board to investigate student opinion regarding fossil-fuel divestment, the results of the referendum speak for themselves and demand a response from the University.
The reality of anthropogenic climate change and the urgency of its consequences are widely accepted by the vast majority of scientists. The International Panel on Climate Change found that anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gas concentration, along with other human contributions to environmental degradation, caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 20101. In 2016 carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels accounted for 76% of U.S. anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and about 94% of total U.S. anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions2. Since fossil-fuel
extraction and usage are the leading cause of climate change, it follows that one of the most effective ways to address climate change is to move away from fossil fuels. Pitt has acknowledged the necessity of such an energy transition in the 2018 Sustainability Plan and has made significant efforts to reduce its reliance on electricity produced from fossil fuels (3). The University’s choice to build a 60-million-dollar dam for hydropower to reduce its fossil-fuel dependence is a commendable step in the right direction. But how sincere are the University’s efforts to secure a more sustainable future when its 4.2 billion dollar endowment remains
partially invested in the fossil fuel industry(4)?
Again, we ask that you make a statement regarding the referendum and the University’s position on divestment, and we ask that this happen in a timely manner, given that we are nearing the end of the semester– before next Wednesday, April 10 . If you refuse to acknowledge the referendum and refrain from making a statement on fossil-fuel divestment, it will be clear that the University’s priorities do not lie with the needs and concerns of its students, but instead with the financial interests of corporations who profit off of the destruction of our future economy and environment. As student leaders we find such silence unacceptable and will respond accordingly to such disregard for students’ wellbeing, both future and present.
Fossil Free Pitt Coalition
*Active Minds, Amnesty International Pitt, Asian Student Alliance, Caribbean & Latin American Student Association, Chess Team, Community and Students for Academic workers (CSAW), Collision Literary Magazine, Engineers for a Sustainable World, Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Growth and Empowerment (FORGE), Feel Good, Free the Planet, Geology Club, Global Brigades, Hillel Jewish Student Union, Muslim Students Alliance, Outdoors Club, Panther Women’s Rugby Football Club, PAW (Panthers for Animal Welfare), Phi Delta Epsilon, Pitt Bicycle Collective, Pitt Chinese American Student Association, Pitt Club Football, Pitt College Democrats, Pitt Ecology Club, Pitt Genocide Relief and Awareness Club (GRAC), Pitt Men’s Rugby, Pitt Secular Alliance, Pitt Wushu Club, Pittiful News, South Asian Students Alliance,Students for Justice in Palestine, Students for Sustainability, Take Back the Tap, USAS Local #31, Songburghs, Rainbow Alliance, Pitt Prison Outreach, Campus Women’s Organization, Black Action Society, Pitt Progressives, The Fourth Wave, Handbell Choir, Premedical Coalition of Minority Students (POMS), Nourish International, Pitt Pendulums, Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity, Keep It Real, Thirst, Pitt Ski Club, Pitt Aquaponics Project
(1)IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 pp.
(2) U.S Energy Information Administration, Energy and the Environment Explained: Where Greenhouse Gases Come From, Carbon Dioxide , July 2018.
(3) University of Pittsburgh, Pitt Sustainability Plan, Energy and Emissions , January 2018.
(4) Jones, Susan. “Pitt Signs Agreement to Purchase All the Power from Planned Hydroelectric Plant.” University Times , University of Pittsburgh, 29 Nov. 2018.