25th Annual IAJBS World Forum / Inaugural CJBE South Asia Regional Chapter Meeting

Experience level: 
Intended Audience: 
Marinilka B. Kimbro & James A. F. Stoner

Walking the walk? Jesuit universities & fossil-fuel investments

WALKING THE WALK? JESUIT UNIVERSITIES & FOSSIL FUEL INVESTMENTS Extended Abstract There is a general understanding that even if we all live in a sustainable manner, it will not make a sufficiently large difference in the face of rapidly increasing global carbon emissions. Indeed, according to the 2017 European Commission Policy Report, only three countries: US, China and India, contribute to almost 50% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. This situation has enabled skeptics to argue that individual changes toward more sustainable living will not make much difference if China, India and the US continue polluting at increasing rates. The benefits of approaching the problem of climate change from a nation-based perspective are intuitively logical. Countries, through their public policy initiatives of taxation and economic incentives, have the potential of altering citizens’ behavior. However, country level commitments, as in the case of the 2015 Paris Accord, have proven to be disappointing. This paper recognizes that a nation-based analysis is useful, because it allows the formation of international agreements, and these agreements should be encouraged and supported. However, this paper argues that a more effective approach involves shifting the responsibility for climate change to the actors who are ultimately responsible for climate change. The paper proposes tracing liability to the firms that produce the fossil fuels that generate the greenhouse gas emissions that in turn cause the warming of our planet. In other words, responsibility ultimately lies in the “fossil fuels firms” who extract, refine, and market fossil fuels. . The study suggests a collective action to stop financing/investing in fossil-fuel firms. More specifically, Jesuit Universities can lead this initiative to advance global sustainability by joining the Fossil Fuel Divestment movement. Divestment implies that each University divests(dis-invest or sell) any financial holding in any firm who extracts, refines, markets, or sells fossil fuels. Investment means voting with money—and to invest in the production of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases is voting to destroy the planet. If there is one institution that, even nominally, has a stake in public enlightenment, it is colleges and universities. Divestment in universities is also grounded in exposing a blatant moral hypocrisy. On the one hand universities are entrusted to prepare students for the future, but at the same time they are profiting from an industry which is destroying their future. This argument is particularly important in Jesuit institutions whose mission is guided by a Catholic Jesuit tradition and recently has been inspired and reinvigorated by the pronouncements in Laudato Si. This paper analyzes divestment initiatives by Jesuit Universities. Preliminary results indicate that only 2.8% of all Colleges and Universities in the US have committed to divest fully or partially. In terms of Jesuit Universities in the US, 7.1% or only two institutions have agreed to some form of divestment. The preliminary results of European and Asian Jesuit Universities investments/divestments are similarly disappointing. As Pope Francis states in Laudato Si, preserving and taking care of our natural world is no longer “optional,” it is an integral and essential part of the Church’s teaching on social justice. This is humanity’s legacy and our generation’s greatest challenge. This paper ultimately provides evidence of who is really “walking the walk” in order to create an environment that will inspire and produce change. Hopefully by recognizing where we are, we can decide where we want to be.