Divestment Convergence

Fossil Free California


California universities have long prided themselves as being on the forefront of sustainability, and it’s time we held our institutions accountable to this mission and to creating the clean energy future we need. The Fossil Free California Campaign aims to align our schools’ endowments with their missions and, with the help of partners nationwide, send a strong message to the coal industry: your time’s up.

Where We’ve Been

In 2010, a small group of students from Swarthmore College visited communities devastated by Mountaintop Removal Coal mining in Appalachia. Recognizing systemic inaction at the state and federal level, and the larger connection between fossil fuel extraction and global climate change, Swarthmore students decided to get organized and confront their board of trustees about the institution’s investment holdings in the “Sordid Sixteen” coal companies responsible for destroying Appalachian communities. The campaign began to inspire other campuses, and in 2011, CSSC led the West Coast in kick-starting the campaign to get California’s higher education institutions to divestment from the “filthy 15” coal companies. After publishing a preliminary report on reducing coal investment holdings in California’s higher education institutions, CSSC leadership continued to work closely with coalition partners to develop a comprehensive statewide and national campaign strategy. Over the past year, the framework laid by these organizations ignited the now-international movement  to leverage divestiture from the top 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies as a means of addressing climate change and the corruption perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry.

Where We Are

By 2012, the work of students from Vermont to California inspired leading environmental author and 350.org founder Bill Mckibben to write a piece in Rolling Stone that instantly went viral entitled “Global Warmings Terrifying New Math.” The 350 team and its partners around the country soon organized the “Do The Math” tour, where McKibben and many organizers traveled to 200 cities across the nation to spread the word about fossil fuel divestment as a means to advance political action on the climate crisis.As of July 2013, more than 308 higher education institutions, 103 cities and states and several religious and independent institutions reportedly joined the Fossil Free campaign, which calls on institutional investors to freeze new investments in the fossil fuel industry and divest co-mingled or direct holdings from the industry within 5 years. Over the last year, CSSC has been instrumental in forming coalitions with organizations like 350 and developing strong student-lead campaigns across the UC, CSU, CCC and private university systems. To date: 7 out of the 9 undergraduate UC student governments and 1 Academic Senate have passed resolutions in support of divestment; the HSU and SFSU student governments passed resolutions in favor; the SFSU administration voted in favor of divesting its foundation from filthy 15 and tar sands companies; and the Claremont Colleges and Stanford University are also actively working on campaigns.

Students from across California participate in a direct action and testify before the UC regents at their May meeting in Sacramento about the importance of divesting from fossil fuels and investing in a sustainable future. Photo Credit: Mauricio Castillo

Students from across California participate in a direct action and testify before the UC regents at their May meeting in Sacramento about the importance of divesting from fossil fuels and investing in a sustainable future. Photo Credit: Mauricio Castillo, 2013

Where We’re Going

As the fossil free movement builds momentum, CSSC has remained prominent in the national conversation about campaign strategy and how organizing around divestment can be incorporated within the larger national and international struggles for environmental, social and economic justice. For most of us actively working on campaigns, it is important to recognize that encouraging our institutions to remove assets from fossil fuels is just the beginning—the larger goal is investing in fossil free alternatives that generate the much needed sustainable, just and locally accountable development projects our state and nation need to survive in a rapidly changing global environment. California represents one of the top 10 largest economies in the world, and what we do here serves as an example for other states and countries. CSSC is uniquely positioned to build the local, regional and statewide networks between students, community activists, sustainable developers and other visionaries that can do the necessary and difficult work needed to transform our higher education institutions and the communities they are in into models of global sustainability. To do this, we plan to continue to foster collaboration among student leaders across the state by providing regional trainings and opportunities to research and publish related work; creating a fossil free CSSC internship program; hosting bi-weekly and monthly coordination calls for various campaigns; and developing a host of online resources with partner organizations including: how-to guides, expert advise from financial experts, templates, and a fossil free student field guide specific to CA. Finally, starting in early August four student regional coordinators will work directly with the campaign directors and regional fossil free interns to mobilize for PowerShift 2013 in Pittsburgh.

Want to get involved?

The question is simple: Is your university built on thousands, even millions of dollars of investments in the dirtiest coal companies? We have the resources to not only help you find out, but to pressure your university to invest in a cleaner and safer future, and to maintain an endowment that fits their values – socially, environmentally, and economically.

Get Involved: UC

Get Involved: CSU

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Get Involved: CC

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Get Involved: High School

  • Coming soon! Feel free to contact either of the campaign directors (listed below).

Our Partners


The Fossil Free Campaign has had the honor of working with leaders and organizations within the UC and California State University systems and has made significant progress in developing the initiative at campuses across the state.

  • Teach-in events at UCSB, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and CSU Los Angeles
  • UC Berkeley, UCSB, UCLA Foundation engagement
  • Associated Students at 7 of the 9 UC campuses pass resolutions in support of institutional and systemwide divestment (UCLA, UCB, UCSB, UCSD, UCSC, UCD, UCI); UC Berkeley student government resolution also mandates the Associated Students divest any of their $3-4 million in endowment holdings from fossil fuels.
  • San Francisco State University and Humbolt State University pass student government resolutions in support of divestment
  • SFSU Foundation votes to divest from coal and tar sands companies
  • UC Berkeley undergraduate students pass a referendum in support of systemwide divestment by 73%
  • UCSB Academic (Faculty) Senate passed resolution in support of institutional and systemwide divestment
  • Fossil Free UC engagement with UC Office of the President and UC Student Association
  • Students from UC Berkeley, SFSU and USF testified before San Francisco City Board of Supervisors on fossil fuel divestment, aiding in the Board’s unanimous decision to vote in favor of divesting San Francisco Employee Retirement System from more than $583 million from fossil fuel companies
  • UC and CSU students have been interviewed about their work on fossil free and featured in a variety of national and international media sources including the Los Angeles Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, National Public Radio, Buzzfeed.com, Peakwater.org and many local and regional outlets