At the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 27, 2023, the student-led environmental coalition Fossil Fuel Free UConn voiced their concerns over the university’s greenhouse gas emissions, financial ties to the fossil fuel industry and overall lack of transparency, according to reporting from The Daily Campus.
Fossil Fuel Free UConn presented three main demands to the board: “decarbonize, divest, and disclose.”
As Fossil Fuel Free UConn explains, “decarbonize” refers to UConn creating and implementing a plan to be carbon-neutral by 2030 and eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2040.
“Divesting” would require the UConn Foundation, a private, non-profit entity responsible for overseeing and investing the university endowment, to remove investments of endowed funds from all companies that are either directly involved in fossil fuels or earn a majority of their revenue from nonrenewable resources including coal, oil and natural gas.
Finally, “disclosing” would require UConn to publicly disclose the comprehensive action plans called for in the first two demands, which would entail illustrating a detailed and transparent process for transitioning to completely green energy infrastructure. Disclosure would also require UConn to publicly communicate the amount of the university’s direct and indirect investments into fossil fuel companies, as well as the extent of UConn’s accepted donations from the ExxonMobil and Shell Oil Company Foundations.
Fossil Fuel Free UConn has also recently been circulating a petition titled “TELL UCONN: NO MORE FOSSIL FUELS” on change.org with over 1,000 signatures, listing out these demands and asking students and other members of the UConn community to further support their efforts.
The Daily Campus Editorial Board endorses Fossil Fuel Free UConn’s demands and petition. Having repeatedly written about UConn’s environmental impact and failure to rise to the occasion in combating the global climate crisis, we recognize the importance of such demands and want to further highlight their necessity.
It is important to note that while UConn does already have the stated “aspirations” to achieve carbon-neutrality on campus by 2030, these are just that: aspirations. As The Daily Campus Editorial Board has noted before, though there is varying rhetoric from the UConn administration regarding sustainability efforts on campus, they have yet to release a concrete plan to achieve these goals despite President Radenka Maric’s promise to do so “in the near future.” Additionally, the Sept. 27 board of trustees meeting agenda included a proposal to allocate $15 million to add a connection to the university’s utility provider Eversource, which predominantly burns natural gas for power generation. The Editorial Board wishes to emphasize that outfitting UConn for deeper fossil fuel dependency is a strong indication that the board of trustees has yet to allocate the necessary resources needed to plan and impliment a carbon-reduction program.
We know from overwhelming scientific consensus that fossil fuels are the problem causing a definitive threat to our planet, of which we are already seeing the effects. If the university truly considered student input, the board of trustees would meet the demands of Fossil Fuel Free UConn. The Editorial Board encourages community members who share the cause of preventing irreversible climate change — and eliminating UConn’s harmful contributions to it — to sign on to the demands of decarbonization, divestment and disclosure laid out in Fossil Fuel Free UConn’s petition. By moving in lock-step towards a zero-carbon future, we can begin to meet the challenge of environmental injustice head-on.