Regents won’t divest; call for report on options for future investment

Board won’t form committee to advise on sustainable investments
By Staff

The CU Board of Regents said it won’t move to divest from fossil fuels.

In a 7-2 vote April 16 at CU Denver in the Tivoli Turnhalle, during the board’s regular meeting, regents passed a resolution stating that the university will stay its investment course; the resolution also asks the treasurer later this year to provide a report on the university’s current and potential future investments in sustainable energy.

The resolution came about after months of activism by students, faculty and others who have appeared before the board at its meetings and asked that the university move toward an investment portfolio absent of any and all funds tied to the fossil fuel energy industry.

At last week’s meeting, support for Fossil Free CU was voiced in the public comment period by members of Green Alpha Advisors, a Boulder-based asset management firm that deals only in fossil fuel-free portfolios. Public comment also included input from several students and community members who expressed support for Colorado’s oil and gas industry and urged the board not to divest. The motion that passed was introduced by Regent John Carson, R-Highlands Ranch, and seconded by Regent Sue Sharkey, R-Castle Rock.

“All of us want to do what’s best for our children … what’s best for the planet, what’s best for our university,” Carson said. “But I think the way to approach this issue is from a scientific angle. … I do not think that divestment is the best approach to this.”

The resolution cites regent policies and state rules that prohibit university ownership of individual companies, require institutional neutrality on social and political matters and uniformity of prudent investment, which stipulates a diversity of investments by the institution.

Carson also said that the board “(by) taking positions on issues of the day … could potentially have an impact on academic freedom.”

Sharkey said while she believes in responsible stewardship of the environment, “it’s a ridiculous case to make that this university divesting from fossil fuels is going to make a difference toward climate change or global warming.”

“The University of Colorado is not going to divest from fossil fuel, but what I think we will do is look for alternatives and support companies in sustainable energy,” she said.

The original resolution did not include the direction that the University Treasurer provide a report in November on how university investments reflect CU’s “commitment to sustainability.” That addition was offered as a friendly amendment by Regent Michael Carrigan, D-Denver.

“This amendment shows we are willing to look into this issue further,” said Carrigan, adding that he wants the treasurer to report on what options are available to the university going forward. “This board really ought to hear about those, as we did today (from Green Alpha Advisors).”

“I do not envision a scenario where we support total divestment,” Carrigan said, “but I don’t see this as a black-and-white issue.”

Regent Steve Bosley, R-Longmont, also introduced an amendment affirming the continuation of the board’s Investment Advisory Committee, established in 1993.

Two of Carrigan’s Democratic colleagues, Regents Irene Griego, D-Lakewood, and Linda Shoemaker, D-Boulder, said they felt the resolution didn’t go far enough in examining the issue, and therefore voted against it.

After that vote, Shoemaker introduced a resolution calling for the establishment of a Sustainable Investment Advisory Committee, which she called a “moderate, middle-ground resolution” that doesn’t call for divestment, but one that would enable the pursuit of movement away from fossil fuel investments and toward more renewable energy sources.

Carrigan suggested that a vote on such a committee be delayed until the board hears the treasurer’s report in November, but Shoemaker declined. Carrigan said he wasn’t opposed to the formation of the committee in principle, but because he didn’t agree with the time table, he joined the board’s five Republicans in voting against it. Shoemaker, Griego and Regent Stephen Ludwig, D-Denver, voted for it.

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