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Resolution calls for divestment of fossil fuel investments

Climate change and the environment are continually growing concerns, especially in areas like Southern Oregon. Ashland's City Council will show their concern with a resolution at a meeting tonight, Tuesday.

Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, a grassroots organization of area residents concerned with promoting awareness of climate change and urging action against it, are in the midst of a project to urge divestment from fossil fuel companies from the Public Employees Retirement System and the Oregon Short Term Fund Board. Both boards invest with companies identified as having the largest coal, oil and gas reserves by the Fossil Free Indexes

SOCAN asked Ashland for support in this project during the public forum at the June 17 City Council meeting and continued the discussion at the Aug. 4 and Sept. 15 council study sessions. Councilors approved bringing a resolution to tonight's meeting.

The resolution doesn't change how the city handles investments, says City Recorder Barbara Christensen. What it does is make recommendations to the two investment boards to examine divestment from these fossil fuel companies. 

"The hope is to get this cumulative message from different communities concerned about this," says Councilor Pam Marsh. "We place our funds in larger state funds, so we don't really make decisions as to what we invest in. We just become part of the group."

Marsh says that, while the resolution is, in a way, symbolic, she still believes it will have an impact.

"Eugene has done this, Portland has been examining it and there are a number of universities looking at this as well," she says. "It would be pointless to continue with this if we didn't think it would have an impact. The more voices are speaking up, the greater the impact it has."

In addition to these recommendations to the investment boards, the resolution asks the state to consider legislation to require consideration of divestment from fossil fuel companies in the future.

Governments around the world determined that any warming above 3.6 degrees would be unsafe. Analysis shows that humans can only emit about 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide to maintain that limit. The Carbon Tracker Initiative found that fossil fuel companies posses reserves proven to emit 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide if burned. The resolution states that Ashland believes investments should support a future where all citizens can live healthy lives without the negative impact of climate change.

"Climate change is important to the city," Marsh says. "Fossil fuel companies are making a tremendous amount of money. Continuing to support their efforts runs counter to what we have been trying to do as a community, which is combat climate change."

The council will discuss the resolution at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St. The meeting also will be broadcast on channel 9 for Ashland TV customers and channel 180 for Charter customers. For more information about climate change and to get involved with SOCAN, see its website at www.socan.info.

Email reporter Ian Hand at ihand@dailytidings.com or call him at 253-722-4071. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/IanHand_DT.