UMaine students stage climate strike to call on university system to divest from fossil fuels

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About 40 students and community members rallied at the University of Maine at Orono on Friday in a “climate strike,” where they called on university officials to withdraw investment of the all fossil fuel system.

The rally at the Orono campus was one of hundreds of climate strikes planned across the country linked to the “Fridays for Future” movement, which began in 2018 by activist Greta Thunberg. The event in Orono focused specifically on the issue of fossil fuel divestment at a time when world leaders continue to warn of the impending and damaging effects of climate change.

Belu Katz, of the Divest UMS group, said after Maine lawmakers passed the country’s first law last year to divest the state’s pension system from fossil fuels, the university system should follow suit. not.

“The financial viability of fossil fuels is diminishing. The global economy is already shifting towards renewable energy and the university is lagging behind,” Katz said.

A university spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. But at a board meeting in November, University of Maine system board chairman Mark Gardner said the system had reduced its fossil fuel investments to about 2 percent. of its holdings, down from 6.5% in 2014. The system also implemented a policy five years ago, requiring it to consider environmental, social and governmental factors in its investment decisions. investment.

Divest UMS president Charles Cooper said those measures weren’t adequate, and he and other students want a firm commitment that the system will work to fully divest as soon as possible.

“Yes, it’s complex. But we want a commitment to make it happen,” Cooper said. “And we know that can happen. Because other institutions have done it. And other institutions have handled a lot more money than ours.”

Several other colleges, including Unity College and College of the Atlantic, have already opted out of fossil fuels.

Cooper said Divest UMS is also creating a plan proposing how the system should reinvest its holdings, which it could potentially present to officials as early as the end of this year. In the meantime, the group plans to lobby the University of Maine system’s board of trustees again on the issue when it meets next week.

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