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Billboard Calls on Pitt to Divest from Fossil Fuels

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University of Pittsburgh students and allies unveil a billboard, which calls on the school's trustees to divest from fossil fuels. (Photo credit: FossilFreePitt)
University of Pittsburgh students and allies unveil a billboard, which calls on the school's trustees to divest from fossil fuels. (Photo credit: FossilFreePitt)
 By Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA - Producer, Contact
February 15, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- "The world is watching, divest now," will be the message University of Pittsburgh students and their allies deliver to university trustees today.

A billboard unveiled in Oakland is the latest action in a student-led campaign that began eight years ago.

Students want the trustees who control the university's $4.3 billion endowment to divest from fossil-fuel investments when the board meets later this month.

Elina Zhang, a member of Fossil Free Pitt and a student, said failure to divest contradicts the university's commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2037.

"We see Pitt's hypocrisy as it pronounces itself a leader in sustainability and simultaneously refuses to withdraw its money from the fossil-fuel industry," Zhang asserted.

In response to protests last year, the trustees formed an ad hoc committee to recommend whether and to what extent the endowment should divest from fossil fuels.

Zhang said the committee was supposed to release a report and make its recommendations public by the end of January.

"No report has emerged," Zhang noted. "It's coming up to the end of February and a recommendation is supposed to be made, but the public is really getting nothing from this ad hoc committee."

She added as residents of a county with consistently high levels of particulate air pollution, students at Pitt personally feel the impact of continuing reliance on fossil fuels.

Zhang pointed out divestment is also important as a means to address what she calls the fossil fuel industry's legacy of environmental racism.

"We know that communities most affected by oil and natural gas and its environmental consequences are low-income people of color, while jobs will disproportionately go to white workers," Zhang contended.

She added if the trustees fail to act, Fossil Free Pitt will continue its actions to hold them accountable and demand full divestment from fossil-fuel industries.

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