New York's Union Theological Seminary, Linked to Columbia University, Makes History by Divesting $108M From Fossil Fuels

On the 10th of June 2014 New York's Union Theological Seminary made history by announcing that it would be the first seminary in the world to divest from the fossil fuels industry because of the harm caused by the related CO2 emmissions. This will mean the seminary's $108.4 million endowment will be completely freed of fossil fuel investments.

Writing in Time Magazine Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary, states:

"As a seminary we are familiar with the scriptural warning that "the wages of sin is death," and this could not be more literally true than it is in the case of fossil fuels. As vulnerable communities have been swallowed by rising shorelines, as potable water has become a commodity of increasing rarity, as hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by violent weather, it is ever clear that humanity's addiction to fossil fuels is death-dealing—or as Christians would say, profoundly sinful."

This announcement is a victory for climate campaigners that have been reaching out to community organisations to work towards an asset drain from the fossil fuels industry. It is also further evidence that religious leaders are now a key ally in the fight against global warming. At the end of May '14 Archbishop Desmond Tutu gave a scathing condemnation of the Alberta Oil Sands Project: "The fact that this filth is being created now, when the link between carbon emissions and global warming is so obvious, reflects negligence and greed."

Of course, New York's Union Theological Seminary should not be thought of only in religious terms. It is one of the best seminaries in the world. It is linked to the Ivy league Columbia University and is home to the western hemisphere's largest theological library. When viewed as an institute of further learning the Union Seminary becomes a bold example for universities are the world. Oxford University in the UK is already under substantial pressure to similarly divest as 59 of its own academics sign an open letter calling the university to "take action on climate change" by "ridding its £3.8bn endowment of investments in fossil fuel companies".

Succes stories like the one in New York serve to both morally and financially legitimize the fight for divestment in fossil fuel industries.

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