Temple Student Government endorses university fossil fuel divestment

The statement, made in conjunction with Temple Climate Action, calls for the university to be transparent about its financial investments in fossil fuels.

Temple Student Government released a statement in partnership with Temple Climate Action on April 23 endorsing Temple’s divestment from fossil fuels, days before the new TSG administration took over on April 29th. 

The 2023-24 TSG cabinet, headed by President Rohan Khadka, and the next student government, ReimagineTU, will continue to endorse the statement. ReimagineTU hopes to establish more sustainability initiatives, like Greek life block cleanups.

ReimagineTU hopes to maintain the established relationship among TSG, TCA and the Office of Sustainability, said Ray Epstein, junior communication and social influence major TSG president. 

“We will continue to advocate for Temple’s divestment from fossil fuels, and for an overall increase in sustainable practices across campus,” Epstein said.

The full statement from TSG and TCA encourages the university to be a climate change leader, take steps toward environmental responsibility and encourage a stronger connection between TCA, a non-Temple affiliated ecological club, and Temple’s Office of Sustainability. It also highlights the importance of being a good neighbor to the Temple community and North Philadelphia.

“Temple’s commitment to the Good Neighbor Policy, to build proactive relationships from Temple to create a positive contribution to their residential community, goes directly with divestment,” TSG and TCA wrote in the statement. “The investment of fossil fuels intensifies the risk of water pollution and poor air quality in the Philadelphia region. Divestment causes impactful change in the health and quality of life for both the students of Temple and the surrounding community members.

TCA began calling for fossil fuel divestment since the group formed in 2022 through protests, canvassing and a petition started upon the club’s formation. 

While the statement is the first time TSG has directly addressed the issue and called for divestment, they previously advocated for sustainability this academic year, pushing for reduced waste in the dining hall, volunteering for the Temple Community Garden and holding Green Council meetings to increase awareness to sustainability organizations.

“Temple claims to be a pioneer in climate and their urgency should go toward this divestment, along with universities like Harvard, Yale, Rutgers and Syracuse,” said Caroline Kotch, director of sustainability for TSG and junior political science major. “Backing divestment as a whole for Temple would pioneer themselves as climate change forward.”

Some universities, like Rutgers, Princeton and Johns Hopkins, have started divesting assets from the fossil fuel industry, according to Divestment Database, an international tracker of fossil fuel divestment.

In 2020, Harvard, which currently has more than $1 billion in investments in the fossil fuel industry, committed to reaching net-zero emissions and divesting from fossil fuels by 2050. Rutgers previously had 5% of its $1.6 billion endowment invested in fossil fuels in 2021 but plans to stop all new investments and divest by 2031.

“Divesting from fossil fuels just represents a commitment to prioritizing communities over profit,” said Ty Fowler, a junior philosophy major and event coordinator for TCA. “Opposing the power and influence of oil and gas in our university is a part of dealigning ourselves from the fossil fuel industry.”

The Office of Sustainability recently released its 2022-23 Sustainability Annual Report outlining its progress in various sustainability goals since its 2019 Climate Action Plan was established. The Office is also working on its next iteration of a climate action plan, which will be split into the 2024 Sustainability Action Plan and an emissions reduction plan.

The most recent estimate shows Temple has about a 3% investment in “commingled funds,” wrote Ken Kaiser, senior vice president and chief operating officer, in an email to The Temple News. 

However, the university is not obligated to disclose financial investments because it is not a publicly listed company. Temple does use natural gas and electricity as its campuses’ main energy sources, but details of investments in fossil fuels are not “readily transparent,” Kaiser wrote. 

With various universities taking steps to neutralize emissions and divest from fossil fuels, TSG’s statement shows solidarity with the climate action movement and other universities that have divested.

“[This statement] is to show that students care about this and for faculty, staff and administration to see that this is a problem that people are aware of,” Kotch said. “TSG is supposed to be representative of the student body, so I think that this statement is for the administration to see that students really care about it.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.