Resolution 145: Fossil Fuel Divestment

Passed: March 11, 2020
Sponsors: (See below)
Senate Discussions: December 2019, February 2020, March 2020

The Resolution

Whereas, 195 nations reached a global agreement in Paris in December of 2015 that we must keep planetary warming under 2o C above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid catastrophic and irreversible damage to society and the environment; since then, warming trends and their devastating consequences are happening more quickly than many predicted, leading to the likelihood of runaway feedback loops and prompting over 11,000 scientists to declare a “climate emergency” in November 2019;

Whereas, the climate emergency is unlike all other cases for divestment in that fossil fuel use is threatening human civilization as we know it, with millions if not billions of people soon to suffer its impacts, including massive displacements of populations, hunger, disease, droughts, and floods around the world, the collapse of ecosystems, and violent unrest sparked by the struggle for scarce resources;

Whereas, Cornell is world famous as a leader in teaching and research on sustainability, with an important responsibility to maintain this reputation;

Whereas, On January 29, 2016, the Cornell Board of Trustees laid out clear and stringent criteria for the review of divestment requests;

That divestment should “be considered only when a company’s actions or inactions are ‘morally reprehensible’ (i.e., deserving of condemnation because of the injurious impact that the actions or inactions of a company are found to have on consumers, employees, or other persons, or which perpetuate social harms to individuals by the deprivation of health, safety, basic freedom, or human rights. Morally reprehensible activities include apartheid, genocide, human trafficking, slavery, and systemic cruelty to children, including violations of child labor laws).

That divestment “will likely have a meaningful impact toward correcting the specified harm, and will not result in disproportionate offsetting negative societal consequences”; or

That the companies in question contribute to “harm so grave that it would be inconsistent with the goals and principles of the University.”

Whereas, the University Assembly Campus Infrastructure Committee has prepared a White Paper, attached to this Resolution, that documents in detail how fossil fuel companies meet all of these criteria,

Be it resolved, that Cornell divest from all investments in coal, oil, and natural gas in an orderly manner and as rapidly as possible.


White Paper on Fossil Fuel Divestment ( 2-page summary )
The University’s Fossil Fuel Divestment FAQ
History of the Issue at Cornell
The Abstract
The Resolution
The Sponsors
Presentation Slides


Nick Admussen Department of Asian Studies
College of Arts and Sciences
Buz Barstow Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering
College of Engineering
Robert Warren Howarth Department of Ecology and Environmental Biology
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Andre Kessler Department of Ecology and Environmental Biology
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Risa L. Lieberwitz Labor and Employment Law
School of Industrial & Labor Relations
Joanie Mackowski Department of English
College of Arts and Sciences
Judith Peraino, Department of Music
College of Arts and Sciences
Courtney Roby, Department of Classics
College of Arts and Sciences
Jonathan Russell-Anelli, School of Integrative Plant Sciences
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Chris B. Schaffer, School of Biomedical Engineering
College of Engineering
Suman Seth Department of Science and Technology Studies
College of Arts and Sciences
Michael Tomlan, Department of City and Regional Planning
College of Art, Architecture, and Planning
Robert Travers Department of History
College of Arts and Sciences
John Aloysius Zinda Department of Development Sociology
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

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