UNM Faculty Senate seeks fossil fuel divestment

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico Faculty Senate is requesting that the UNM Foundation address climate change by divesting from companies involved in fossil fuel extraction and production.

Faculty Senate President Finnie Coleman presented two resolutions passed by the governing body to the UNM Board of Regents on Tuesday.

University of New Mexico students march in an Earth Day Rally on April 22. The UNM Faculty Senate has joined student environmental groups in passing resolutions requesting that the university divest from fossil fuel interests. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“Sometimes there’s a propensity to dismiss these types of resolutions as mere activism or political posturing,” Coleman said. “Across the nation there have been successful efforts at divestment, but there has to be the stomach for it.”

The University of California system and several Ivy League schools have sold their oil and gas holdings in the last decade.

The resolutions also request that UNM embark on several “green initiatives,” including developing a clean energy plan, discontinuing the burning of fossil fuels for electricity by 2035 and the purchase of vehicles that emit greenhouse gases, adding more electric vehicle charging stations in public parking lots, and shifting university vendors to zero-waste operations by 2025.

UNM should “leverage (its) position as an academic institution,” Coleman said, to support companies and communities that would take an economic hit from divestment and want to transition to new business models.

The UNM Foundation’s Consolidated Investment Fund portfolio includes several equity firms with direct ties to oil and gas, natural gas and coal production, according to the Foundation website.

Separating UNM Foundation dollars from fossil fuel assets will likely be “more of a process than a final decision or final action,” Regent Sandra Begay said.

“I appreciate what you’re pursuing,” Begay said. “It’s going to be a hard lift, to be quite honest.”

Fossil fuel divestment is at the forefront for student groups like UNM Leaders for Environmental Action and Foresight, or LEAF.

Raven Alcott, a UNM LEAF member from San Ildefonso Pueblo, said the institution should take meaningful action to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment.

“This university feeds money to fossil fuel industries that will jeopardize our future that we work so hard for every day,” Alcott said at an Earth Day rally in April.

The Associated Students of the University of New Mexico has also passed a resolution requesting that the university divest from fossil fuel interests.

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.

 

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