At a congregational meeting on Sunday October 20, members of the UUSA voted unanimously that the Society divest of all fossil fuel funds over the next five yeas. They voted also to urge the national organization, the Unitarian Universalist Association, to divest; and they voted to support divestment efforts in the wider community, including the Town of Amherst and Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The goal of divestment is to draw attention to the seriousness of climate change and the need to combat the powerful coal, oil, and gas companies, which are the major culprits in climate change. The divestment movement was started by climate activist Bill McKibben, who has stated that the time for small changes is over, that 80% of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must not be burned “or we risk tipping points and irreversible impacts.”
“By divesting, we discredit the fossil fuel companies so that they lose their influence over government,” said Gordon Wyse, President of the Society and member of the UUSA Green Sanctuary Committee. “We don’t have much time here.”
“I’m proud to be a part of this congregation today,” said Alison Wohler, UUSA Minister. “Our vote is absolutely consistent with our UU principles. It’s important to teach our children that we are all about transitioning to a new world of clean, green energy and energy conservation. Critical times for the future of the Earth deserve dramatic, but thoughtful, action like this.”
The UUSA has acted on it’s commitment to green values over the years including receiving Green Sanctuary Certification, having an active Green Sanctuary Committee, sponsoring an annual Connecticut River clean up, ensuring that the meetinghouse is energy efficient, including planning to install solar panels on the new addition, encouraging the purchase of local food, overseeing a voluntary individual carbon tax program for members, and by various other programs to reduce their carbon footprint.
“Two degrees. Globally, we can’t exceed that. “ said Darcy DuMont, member of the Green Sanctuary Committee and 350 Statewide Divestment Organizer. “ossil fuel companies continuing business as usual but they’re exploring for more fossil fuels, using more ways to extract it. They are funding climate denial and lobbying against green energy initiatives. They are the bad guys here.”
With this vote the UUSA joins a growing number of churches, colleges, towns and states across the country, which are bringing pressure to bear on government and industry to act now to slow climate change.
The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in 2013 unanimously passed the 2013 Act Of Immediate Witness to Consider Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry, which asked congregations to consider divesting their funds from the fossil fuel industry. A resolution to divest the national UUA endowment will be voted on at the 2014 General Assembly.
The UUSA resolution supports the petition of Alice Swift et al. to the Town of Amherst, to adopt a policy not to invest in fossil fuel companies, which Town Meeting will consider in November.
The resolution also supports pending state legislation, S. 1225, which would divest the state pension fund of fossil fuel investments. The bill is sponsored by Senator Ben Downing and would divest the fund of fossil fuel companies gradually, 20% per year, over a period of 5 years.