University of Washington Becomes Leader in Divestment Movement, Votes to Cease Holdings in Coal Companies

For Immediate Release

Divest UW

Alex Lenferna,, 785-550-8679

Sarra Tekola,, 2067187347

University of Washington Becomes Leader in Divestment Movement, Votes to Cease Holdings in Coal Companies

WASHINGTON - On May 14th, the University of Washington’s Board of Regents voted “Yes” to divesting from thermal coal, making the UW the largest university to take this important step. To UW students, this decision puts the University on the right side of history--in line with its own sustainability standards and no longer investing in companies whose business models are incompatible with a safe future. Carly Marshall, a NASA Space Grant Scholar, said, “I’m proud of our school. The “Yes” for coal divestment makes the UW a leader in the moral fight of our generation.”

This victory came after nearly three years of campaigning by the student group Divest University of Washington (UW). Divest UW is now a leader in the rapidly growing fossil fuel divestment effort, which began in 2012 and has rapidly expanded to include over 500 campaigns across the United States and hundreds more around the world. Divestment is an essential part of a growing grassroots climate justice movement, which is taking action and organizing for change in the absence of legislation. Divestment from coal companies holds the coal industry responsible for its negative impacts on the environment and public health, highlighting the moral and ethical dimensions of acting on climate change.

"The University of Washington’s divestment from thermal coal represents one important step forward towards climate justice. We are under no illusions that it will solve climate change by itself--nothing does. Rather, divestment is one of a thousand cuts in a much broader societal, moral, economic and financial transformation that can jointly rein in the fossil fuel industry and usher in a clean energy future", explained Alex Lenferna, a South African Fulbright Scholar at the University of Washington and a leader of Divest UW.

Thermal coal, which is used primarily for power generation, was chosen for divestment because it is the largest contributor to climate change and the most harmful of the fossil fuels. A recent Nature study showed that we will need to keep 80% of coal reserves unexploited in order to stand even a 50% chance of achieving the globally agreed upon target of keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. The University had approximately $2.3 million invested in coal as of June 2014, according to Treasury figures.

KC Golden, the Senior Policy Adviser at Climate Solutions, stated, “The University of Washington’s motto is Lux Sit – Let there be light. That motto has new strength and meaning today.  Fossil fuel industries keep us locked in to the climate crisis with a campaign of darkness – obscuring the truth about climate science and blocking the path to solutions. I can’t think of a more important signal to the students about the University’s commitment to their future and its own purpose – to shed light – than divesting from fossil fuels.”

The vote came after significant effort by Divest UW and thanks to a large coalition of supporters who represent a growing movement for climate justice. But Divest UW isn’t done yet--significant effort will be put into blocking Shell’s Arctic oil folly, ending fossil fuel subsidies, putting a price on carbon pollution, keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and helping to build a clean energy future.

Coal divestment also received widespread support from the University of Washington student body with resolutions in favor passed by the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW), Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS), and the UAW Local 4121, the union representing academic student employees at the university. Numerous other student and community organizations also signed on in support, including the Black Lives Matters UW, Reclaim UW, Sierra Club, Climate Solutions and 350 Seattle.

Photos of the rally can be found on our Facebook page:


We are a group of undergraduate and graduate students, led by College Greens and S.A.G.E., calling on the University of Washington to join a national movement of educational and religious institutions, city and state governments, and other institutions to divest the UW endowment from fossil fuel companies and commit to making no future fossil fuel investments.

Share This Article