The campaign for divestment from fossil fuels has a long and volatile history at Duke that began in 2012 with widespread support from the student body. Nine years, 11 op-eds, dozens of petitions and a unanimous DSG resolution later, Duke remains invested in fossil fuels. Administration refuses to acknowledge this and continues to use misleading language around this issue, saying that Duke has divested from “direct involvement in fossil fuels”. While this is true, indirect involvement is still putting money behind fossil fuel companies, and it is an outright lie if we claim to be climate neutral in 2024 when our endowment continues to fund fossil fuel projects through third-party asset managers.
Although the exact amount in fossil fuels is kept secret, the large size of Duke’s endowment-- now at $12.7 billion --suggests that a large portion is invested in fossil fuels. Even 1% of the endowment in fossil fuels would add up to $127 million-- the equivalent of producing 1.4 to 6.4 million barrels of crude oil.
Duke is failing to put its money where its mouth is. The university has a constant stream of messages regarding carbon neutrality, equity and anti-racism, yet hundreds of millions of dollars likely still fund industries antithetical to all of those ideals. DUMAC is blatantly choosing to ignore the research produced by professors and graduate students from the Nicholas School that all illustrate the horrible consequences of our continued use of fossil fuels.
Duke is not and will never be “the climate university”, and can never truthfully claim climate neutrality, while remaining indirectly invested in fossil fuels. As a student body, we must demand change from DUMAC and the administration, beginning at the virtual investment forum sponsored by the president’s Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility (ACIR) at 4 p.m. this Wednesday. We must demand divestment from fossil fuels and reinvestment in industries that are not compromising our generation’s future.
Abby Saks is a Trinity first-year and member of the Duke Climate Coalition.
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