350.org Climate Dispute Heats Up

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The University of Wisconsin Foundation says it doesn’t plan to change its investment strategy. But climate change activists say they’ll keep pushing the UW fundraising armto dump its holdings in the fossil fuel industry.

Author and activist Bill McKibben of the group 350.org spoke to hundreds of people in Madison Thursday. It was part of a tour aimed at getting universities to stop investing in oil, natural gas and other so-called fossil fuel industries. Friday, the $2 billion UW Foundation released a statement saying it has a fiduciary responsibility to manage and diversity risk by participating in the global market, as the foundation told donors when receiving their gifts.The foundation says it does not have an estimate of its holdings in fossil fuels, because it is not obvious how to measure such a category.The foundation says it has no plans to change its investment strategy.

The statement is discouraging to Emmy Burns, of the student groupClimate Action 350-UW .Burns says her group will continue to pressure the foundation to divest, and stop new investments in fossil fuel companies. She says she understands the foundation helps fund student and academic programs.

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“What the foundation funds won’t happen if climate change keeps happening,” she says.

Burns compares the climate change divestment push to efforts to divest from South Africa and its apartheid policies 25 years ago.She says there’s also a racial angle to climate change, as many minority communities near oceans and other sensitive areas are starting to feel the negative impact of global warming.

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