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Students win long campaign on climate change

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – After years of pressure from student groups and numerous resolutions passed within the Minnesota Students Association (MSA) at the University of Minnesota, the University recently announced its plan to completely divest from fossil fuels over the next five to seven years.

“I really didn’t think this was something that was going to come out at the start of this year,” said Madeline Miller, MSA director of the Environmental Responsibility Committee. “I thought I was going to spend the rest of my year here fighting for divestment.”

The student-led movement to divest from fossil fuels gained momentum in 2013 after the MSA passed a resolution for the University to divest from fossil fuels. It took eight years after this student resolution was passed for the University to take concrete action to tackle climate change, despite the overwhelming support of the student body.

“I think overall it’s a good decision (to go away from fossil fuels),” said third-year student Nour Hussein. “(It’s) long overdue in my opinion, and I just hope it’s a full divestment, and the funds that are divested are invested in something that thwarts fossil fuels.”

University student groups like Students for Climate Justice have expressed frustration at the University’s lack of action, even after numerous referendums and resolutions passed by the MSA, the Minnesota Daily reported.


“There is no force that accompanies many MSA policies,” said Zach Fisher, a member of Students for Climate Justice. “Even as a member of the student senate, I was a member of the social concerns committee, the best we can do is recommend to the board.”

Unless radical changes are made to carbon emissions, about 89% of which are from the use of fossil fuels, the world will exceed the target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global warming below of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The effects of this are already visible in the rise in sea levels and the increasing frequency of forest fires and extreme weather events such as floods and heat waves.

After little change resulted from MSA resolutions and referendums, climate justice students began to take a direct-action approach to pressuring the university administration to step down. fossil fuels.

“Two years ago we started protesting more actively,” said Fisher. “We tried to make the (Board of Regents) feel like we weren’t just going to sign papers. We were going to introduce ourselves. We were going to protest. We were going to make some noise.

By organizing rallies and marches around campus, student activists have made it clear that they will not go anywhere without the University’s climate action.

Maintaining a strong student movement over the years has been a struggle for many student climate activist groups, especially when their members graduate. While student activists can easily mobilize against climate change by living on campus, advocating for change after graduation is not as easy, said Fisher, who believes the University is waiting. that activists graduate and leave campus so they don’t have to address their concerns. .

Students for Climate Justice have succeeded in building a sustained movement for climate justice, even though some of their most active members are graduating.

In combination with sustained protests and continued action, the University finally announced on September 24 that it would be phasing out fossil fuels.

“It was really amazing that MSA was able to help with this process,” Miller said. “But it’s really been done through years and years of work by all these different groups of students and people in the university community.”

Many students involved in the widespread efforts are calling for future accountability in the divestment process.

“Their divestment has been very good,” Fisher said. “As long as they follow through, I personally cannot say that I have any complaints about this policy.”

Fisher and Miller said the divestiture is a step in the right direction. However, given the scale of the climate crisis, the University must take additional steps to make a meaningful difference.

“I think they are doing a good job. This does not mean that work should be stopped in this area, ”Hussein said. “We are in a state of climate emergency, have you watched the news?”


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