Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’

Sustainability Panel: April 14, 2014

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Last night students, professors, and administrators gathered to discuss sustainability options in reference to UNC’s endowment portfolio and its investments. The panel featured Dr. Carol Hee, Bill Currens, and Christopher Demetropoulos.

Dr. Carol Hee is the director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and a professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School. She stated last night that the “economics of renewables are showing a more favorable trend” and presented a slideshow on ways UNC could be more of a leader in sustainability.

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Her presentation included seven recommendations for the University:

1. UNC should prioritize climate literacy to educate internal and external stakeholders

  • The education budget should be increased

2. UNC’s scientific research should be viewed as a valuable contributor to NC’s economy

3. Stakeholders interested in the growth of renewables should engage policy makers

  • Advocates should link renewables to economic opportunity

4. UNC should continue to model climate stewardship and UNC stakeholders should recognize the associated rewards

5. Additional financial support should be given to sustainability initiatives

6. UNC should implement a comprehensive approach to sustainable investing

7. More students and community members should take advantage of the educational opportunities offered

  • There are over 330 sustainability classes offered at the University

She pointed out that UNC already has goals of becoming climate neutral by 2050, and coal free by 2020. The first step towards this will be the conversion of the coal plant on campus which will be converted to biomass by May 1st, 2020.

After Carol’s presentation Bill Currens, Duke Energy’s vice president of investor relations, demonstrated his slide show on Duke’s energy portfolio, and where they expect to go in the future. Duke Energy, founded in 1904, is currently the largest utility in the United States, and as such they have a responsibility to listen to their consumers with regard to where they want their money invested.

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Renewable portfolio standards in North Carolina require that 12.5% of the state’s energy come from renewable energy sources by 2021. Bill Currens highlighted the fact that Duke Energy must comply with this law by throwing renewables into the mix of Duke’s ever-evolving energy portfolio. But he stated somberly that, “in today’s environment its very challenging to run a whole fleet…renewables can be a piece of that”, but not a large piece. He cited problems with battery storage as one of the main reasons the industry would not be adopting more renewables any time soon. Bill says that Duke Energy is “actively exploring battery storage”.

Duke predicts that in 2015 24% of its energy will come from natural gas, 38% from coal, 35% from nuclear, and a measly 3% from renewable sources. When asked why they were not planning on adopting more renewables when students and other customers of Duke Energy were increasingly demanding clean energy sources, he indicated that Duke’s hands are tied. He cited this issue as an industry problem that is slow, and that would take a long time to remedy. Bill says that change can not come with a snap decision, but has to evolve over time. He emphasized the need for a flexibility of energy sources so that Duke would have options when prices on sources went up. The problem is, we don’t have time.

As Carol Hee pointed out last night, the climate is expected to warm by 2 degrees. Scientists say that this may even be too much. We need to take action on this issue now, not wait for it to evolve. Duke needs to be a leader in this push, as the largest utility in the US, they have a mountain of influence to work from.

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The final presenter at the panel was Trillium Asset Management’s Christopher Demetropoulos. Trillium Asset Management works with investors and responsible companies so that they are sure they are investing in responsible, clean energy. They’ve even developed a white paper on how businesses can divest from the fossil fuel industry without hurting their portfolios. He emphasized that divesting from coal would not harm the investments of Universities and other businesses, especially if that divested money were re-invested into the growing renewable energy sector.

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Overall, the panel pointed to some important issues in the relationship between persons wanting sustainability and the energy industry. However, it did not push that industry enough to do something quickly. It, at least represents an open and continuing dialogue between students and administrators at the University.

-Tara Nattress

Want more information about the campaign?
The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is a broad network of high school and college-aged youth from across the country working to protect the environment. The SSC is the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is simple: “to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement.”
Sign our online petition for coal divestment at UNC on Change.org
Like our UNC Sierra Student Coalition page on Facebook
Join our UNC Beyond Coal Facebook group
Follow @sscunc for updates on Twitter
Want to learn more about the national campaign for university endowments to divest from dirty coal? Check out  http://www.wearepowershift.org/campaigns/divestcoal

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April 15, 2014 at 8:31 pm Leave a comment

NCSEN

At the beginning of February, students from all across North Carolina gathered at NC State. The gathering was a part of NCSEN, otherwise known as North Carolina Student Energy Network. NCSEN is a statewide network of colleges all working towards more renewable energy and a clean future for our state. The network encourages collaboration between schools and students.

Carolina Hansley, a central organizer of NCSEN, put together a retreat on February 1st  for members of the network. The goal of the retreat was to bring members from all across the state together for a weekend. Students came to share ideas, participate in trainings and plan for future events. The ultimate goal of the retreat was to plan a state- wide day of action later in February.

A statewide day of action would involve all of the schools doing a media- worthy action at their school all on the same day. That is exactly what we did. The Day of Action was on February 20th. Schools across North Carolina got students to sign petitions, take photos or participate in a solar spill to promote clean energy. The goal was to draw attention on each campus to the need for renewable energy.

Here on campus, UNC Sierra Student Coalition put together a banner with photo petitions. We collected over 40 photo petitions. People filled in their reasons to the sentence “Duke we want 100% clean energy because….” People had reasons from “I want my children to have a future” to “coal sucks.”  Everyone was really supportive of the cause, and we were able to get the Daily Tar Heel to cover the action.

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The retreat and the Day of Action were all leading up to the Association of Student’s Government Meeting on Saturday, February 22nd. At the meeting all NC system schools voted on a resolution drafted by NCSEN with help from UNC system president Tom Ross. The resolution asks Duke Energy to provide the NC system with 100% clean energy. The resolution is to pressure Duke Energy to help us meet the NC Systems schools’ goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Without Duke Energy’s help, this goal will not be reached.

The resolution passed, and UNC-CH was able to be a part of making that possible. A couple of students from Beyond Coal took the photo petition banner to the ASG meeting and held it up to show UNC’s student support for the resolution. The resolution was successful, but there is still more work to be done. NCSEN has the opportunity and potential to leverage their state- network to make progress towards a clean energy future.

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(Photos courtesy of Sharanya Thiru)

- Hannah McKinley

Want more information about the campaign?
The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is a broad network of high school and college-aged youth from across the country working to protect the environment. The SSC is the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is simple: “to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement.”
Sign our online petition for coal divestment at UNC on Change.org
Like our UNC Sierra Student Coalition page on Facebook
Join our UNC Beyond Coal Facebook group
Follow @sscunc for updates on Twitter
Want to learn more about the national campaign for university endowments to divest from dirty coal? Check out http://www.wearepowershift.org/campaigns/divestcoal

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March 18, 2014 at 5:24 am Leave a comment

Stories from Power Shift 2013

Imagine a place where a twelve-year-old Native American girl, standing up for her community, threatened by the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, can work with leading environmentalists like Bill McKibben and Michael Brune to help save her family’s health and her community’s history.

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This idea became a reality this weekend. The seven members of the UNC Beyond Coal campaign who attended Power Shift conference experienced similar incredible opportunities.

Approximately 6000 college students and environmental organizers gathered at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh from October 18th to October 20th to make national connections for their campaigns, learn strategies to take back to their campuses, and to get inspired to make serious changes in the world.

Upon our arrival, after a warm welcome from Power Shift volunteers, we were handed a sheet of business cards with our contact information and encouraged to exchange them with people we would meet throughout the weekend.  This set a precedent for the atmosphere of the conference, as even in the lobby of the convention center before the kick-off keynote presentation we spoke with people from campaigns all over the country so we could hear about their successes.

Even before the official conference kick-off, people organized protests outside local businesses like EQT, who supported harming indigenous people of Elsipogtog as they peacefully blockaded the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline over their land.

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The excitement for change in Pittsburgh was almost tangible.

The conference officially kicked off with exciting keynote speakers like Bill Peduto, the democratic candidate for the Mayor of Pittsburgh, and Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a twelve year old singer/songwriter advocating for a better quality of life in Indigenous territories who has spoken at the UN conference. These inspirational speakers challenged us to take advantage of everything Power Shift offered to have the best experience possible.

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Picture from US Climate Plan

Watch the video here.

The next day of the conference started the numerous workshops and panels, with a selection so large we sat in our housing site wondering how we’d be able to split ourselves up to cover everything that we wanted to see.  Topics ranged from “Protecting Human Health in Fracked Communities” and “Discussions on Food Justice” to anti-oppression trainings and divestment campaign breakout sessions.  We learned a lot of new information from these panels while also taking the opportunity to help lead some like “Getting Creative with Campus Media” and a breakout session focusing on starting your own divestment campaign.

Although we learned a lot from the panels, the best parts of the conference arguably happened outside the walls of the convention center.  Over the weekend we had the pleasure of spending lunch with friends at San Francisco State University, who just successfully divested from fossil fuels, and we attended an impromptu open mic night featuring environmental writers and musicians hoping to showcase their art to a supportive audience.  Also, we stayed in a hostel called the Pittsburgh Project along with many other Power Shifters, which had a game room with plenty of pool tables, ping pong tables, and places to relax and make friendships with like-minded people.  Times like these really supplemented the experience of the weekend. Footage from Open Mic Night 

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Now that we’re back on campus we’re pumped and ready to begin more hard work for coal divestment right here at UNC, but we’re so grateful that we had the opportunity to experience everything Power Shift had to offer.

-       Will Schoeffler

Want more information about the campaign?

The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is a broad network of high school and college-aged youth from across the country working to protect the environment. The SSC is the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is simple: “to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement.”

Want to learn more about the national campaign for university endowments to divest from dirty coal? Check out www.wearepowershift.org/campaigns/divestcoal 

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October 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

A Ray of Sunlight in the Rain: Board of Trustees Presentation

Extra, extra, read all about it!

Yesterday something BIG  happened within the UNC Beyond Coal movement. Yesterday was D-Day. The day we, as a campaign, got to present to the Board of Trustees (BOT) financial board. Since becoming an organization on campus, this has been a major goal of our campaign. In order to affect change, dialogue must be sparked.

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In case you missed it, here’s a recap.

Beyond Coal members at UNC, accompanied by other members of the student body, gathered on the steps of Wilson Library at 1 PM yesterday for a rally preceding our presentation at the BOT. It was raining, and although our clothes were damp- our spirits were not, and our hearts shone quite as brightly as our yellow t-shirts. We hosted many amazing speakers and we are grateful to each and every one who came out to support our efforts. Amongst them were speakers from the Campus Y – Emilio Vincente and Layla Quran (who invoked their support and offered us help in our future endeavors), Student Power- Dylan Mott, SWEAT- Charlie Reed & Emily Roberts, and the mayor of Carrboro, Mark Chilton. We give our gratitude to Mr. Chilton for battling the rain to make it out today and speaking on our behalf.

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A musical performance by UNC students Carson McKee and Josh Turner followed, which was excellent! Of course, our own spoke as well- Tait Chandler gave a compelling address, and Jasmine Ruddy led chants to get everyone excited for the event that lay ahead.

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Once we arrived at the Carolina Inn, the host site for these meetings, we were all nervous and buzzing with excitement. We approached the room as a solid force, entered with yellow t-shirts branding our bodies. Waiting patiently for our presentation was difficult, but everyone seemed to maintain composure, while still displaying enthusiasm for our cause.

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Anurag Angara, Tait Chandler, and Jasmine Ruddy approached the podium around 2:30 pm and began to make our case. The presentation covered the history of UNC’s divestment from holdings in the apartheid regime in 1987 and its more recent divestment during the genocide in Sudan in 2008. The national context was then established: that 308 universities have divestment campaigns currently and that 6 have already divested, including one large scale public university, San Francisco State, much in likeness to our own.

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The presentation went on to address the fact that 77% of students support divestment at UNC, explained why it is economically feasible and beneficial to the long term health of the endowment, and explained its environmental and human rights impacts.

The board was very receptive to our presentation. We want to thank them for that, and to acknowledge their openness. Our ask at this meeting was specifically for the board to create a working group which would conduct research in order to find out if divestment was an economically feasible solution for our university’s investment problems in the coal industry. The board did not fully deny this, but for the time being pushed it off. Instead, they, very reasonably, stated that they needed to research how much of the endowment actually was invested in coal. They did not have an exact percentage, nor could they even guess at the amount. We know for a fact that 7% of the University’s $2.2 billion endowment is invested in energy, and that part of that investment is in coal. However, we, and the board, do not know what percentage of that invested energy specifically is invested in coal. They pointed out the need to understand this before developing a working group to target divestment. Without the number, a solution for divestment would never be the topic discussed within this group.

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Christy Lambden, the student body president, was extremely supportive of our campaign throughout the meeting. He fought for us tooth and nail, told us that students like us were the reason he was proud to be a tar-heel, and gave us publicity on social media.

We’d like to thank him for his support throughout the whole of yesterday, and in the past. He has been a kind and reliable asset.

At the end of our presentation, the board declared that they would follow up with us shortly, and would be fostering a campus wide discussion of divestment with regard to climate change. They assured us that they would be open to communicating with us into the foreseeable future. Even though we did not achieve a working committee as we had hoped, the board has shown us that they recognize that student voices matter. They realize that this is an issue which is important to us as a generation, and are finally willing to aid us in taking steps towards our goal of making UNC a leader in divestment. We are very pleased, and very grateful. There is still a long road ahead, but gaining the board’s trust and assurance of open discussion is a huge milestone.

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“With lux, libertas — light and liberty — as its founding principles, the University has charted a bold course of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems”. We are now, finally, on our way towards solving this one.

-Tara Nattress

Want more information about the campaign?

 The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is a broad network of high school and college-aged youth from across the country working to protect the environment. The SSC is the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is simple: “to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement.”

Want to learn more about the national campaign for university endowments to divest from dirty coal? Check out www.wearepowershift.org/campaigns/divestcoal 
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September 26, 2013 at 5:43 am Leave a comment

Kick Off! Time to Start Another Great Year!

Hey all! The Sierra Student Coalition’s Beyond Coal campaign is still very much alive and well at UNC.

Today we hosted our Fall Kick Off meeting to encourage potential new members to come out and learn about our campaign and what they can do to get involved. The turn out was more than we could have hoped for! People arrived early, filling up all the available seats, while still more flowed in and eventually occupied the standing space.

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We want to send a giant thank you to everyone who attended. It was definitely a huge success. We had lots of fun, and we hope y’all did to! If you couldn’t attend, no worries. You can still get involved!

To recap: The meeting began with Rachel Woods introducing the campaign and its main goals (divestment).  A moving video was shown shortly after that demonstrates the true detriments coal has on society, and how it is first and foremost, a human rights issue.

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Anurag Angara and Jasmine Ruddy then spoke to the point of why divestment is a viable solution both economically, and environmentally. After this, a brief description of our four core break out groups was given. These include media, events, grassroots, and coalitions. Break out groups commenced with fun ice breakers, and lot of interested people! It was refreshing and inspiring to hear so many great ideas being thrown around right from the start.

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We’re excited about all of the new faces we saw tonight, and hope they can bring a fresh perspective to the campaign.

One major update: We are in the process of getting permission to make a presentation at the Board of Trustees meeting very shortly. Fingers crossed that we can get on the agenda, as this would be very helpful to our campaign. We’ll keep you updated as we are.

Thanks for sticking with us!

Want more information?

  The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is a broad network of high school and college-aged youth from across the country working to protect the environment. The SSC is the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is simple: “to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement.”

Want to learn more about the national campaign for university endowments to divest from dirty coal? Check out www.wearepowershift.org/campaigns/divestcoal 
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-Tara Nattress

September 10, 2013 at 4:42 am Leave a comment

UNC Student Congress passes resolution in favor of coal divestment!

Just weeks after 77% of UNC’s student body voted in favor of coal divestment, our Student Congress has voted overwhelmingly in favor of divesting the university’s $2.1 billion endowment from the dirtiest, most carbon intensive coal mining and coal burning companies in the nation.

The 94th Student Congress of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as the elected legislative authority of the Student Government of the University, representing all of the 29,278 students of the student body expresses its support for UNC’s endowment divesting from coal companies.

Here is a link to the text of the UNC Student Congress resolution for coal divestment and the press release from the UNC Beyond Coal campaign applauding the resolution of support.

The resolution passed on Tuesday night by a 24-6 vote, which in addition to the referendum will send a strong message to the administration and the Board of Trustees that divestment and the bigger picture of climate change are issues that students at UNC are deeply concerned about and issues that the university must take action on immediately.

The referendum on the student ballot was significant, and it is encouraging to know that such a large percentage of the student body is supportive of the divestment campaign. But the support from Student Congress that we have received is even more significant, as they represent all 29,278 students at UNC Chapel Hill.

Since the results of the election last month were announced, the administration has been unresponsive to our requests to present at the UNC Board of Trustees meeting from March 27th-28th. The Board has no excuse to continue to ignore this issue, and should allow the UNC Sierra Student Coalition to make an educational presentation to them at the meeting. We hope that the resolution that was passed will place even more pressure on the university to divest. But whether we are able to make a presentation or not, we will be at the Board meeting in numbers, and we extend the invitation to all of you to join us. Can you bring a friend?

For more information about our campaign, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check out our blog.

March 6, 2013 at 5:48 am Leave a comment

Cleans for Clean Air & Campaign Updates!

In preparation for the March 4th Day of Action, UNC’s Sierra Student Coalition hosted an event in the pit with Carolina Barbell on February 28th. Many people came out to do Clean lifts for clean air and to help support our campaign! This attracted a lot of attention. Even Ramses came out to do some cleans for clean air! We are very appreciative of Carolina Barbell for being at this event with us and making it all possible.

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Also, a shout out to some of our members who attended the Forward On Climate Rally in Washington DC on February 17th, and to those who attended the Power Up! Convergence at Swarthmore in Pennsylvania February 22nd to the 24th. You can read more about the UNC Sierra Student Coalition’s involvement at Power Up! here.

Right now the campaign is currently in a waiting stage. We are hoping to be able to make a presentation at the Board of Trustees meeting at the end of the month, and are calling on them to allow us to do so. In our press conference on Valentine’s Day, we called on administrators to respond to our referendum, and to allow us to speak at the meeting, but have received no response thus far. You can check out the Daily Tar Heel’s article here, & a copy of the News Release is posted below:


UNC-Chapel Hill students call on endowment to divest from coal companies

Leaders ask for trustees, administrators to take serious action

 Students at UNC-Chapel Hill used a successful referendum vote supporting coal divestment to rally their classmates at the Old Well on Thursday afternoon. Campus leaders called on administrators and trustees to divest UNC’s $2.1 billion endowment from the coal industry and allow students to officially present their proposal at the next Board of Trustees meeting.

“Students want UNC to divest from coal, the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive fossil fuel on the planet,” said UNC sophomore Jasmine Ruddy. “We don’t want our educations to be subsidized by investing in an industry that we know is wrecking the climate for future generations.”

On Tuesday, 77 percent of UNC students voted in favor of coal divestment in student body elections, with more than 4,200 students voting for the endowment to dump its coal holdings.

“Research shows that we can divest from the worst coal mining and coal-fired utility companies over the next few years without any real impact on investment returns,” said UNC first-year Anurag Angara. “Coal is an increasingly vulnerable industry and a financially risky investment, so UNC has no real basis for defending why it should keep coal in its portfolio.”

Students are concerned about coal because of its overwhelmingly negative cradle-to-grave impact on public health, environmental quality, global climate change and the U.S. economy. This campaign is part of a national student movement at more than 250 college and university campuses calling on their endowments to remove investments in coal and other fossil fuel industries that are hurting the planet, polluting our politics and driving climate change.

Press Conference Speakers:

  • Jasmine Ruddy, UNC Sierra Student Coalition coordinator
  • Madhu Vulimiri, UNC Campus Y development director
  • Zach Bijesse, UNC Campus Y cabinet member
  • Alanna Davis, N.C. Student Power Union member
  • Anurag Angara, UNC Sierra Student Coalition coordinator

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If you want a more day to day update of our campaign you can like our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/UNCDivestCoal

And, make sure to sign our petition!

 

-Tara Nattress

March 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm Leave a comment

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