Fossil Fuel Dissociation Process

In May 2021, the Board of Trustees authorized the creation of an administrative process to guide dissociation from fossil fuel companies that participate in climate disinformation campaigns or otherwise spread climate disinformation and from companies in the thermal coal and tar sands segments of the fossil fuel industry unless they prove able to meet a rigorous standard for their greenhouse gas emissions.

To implement the dissociation decision made by the Board of Trustees last spring, the University is seeking impartial scholarly advice from a panel of its faculty with expertise in fields including environmental studies, ethics, economics, public policy, and engineering, to address a set of relevant questions. The charge to the panel asks that it present its findings in a public written report. The panel is also encouraged to update the broader community periodically while its work is in progress.

An administrative committee will use the findings of the faculty panel to propose for Board approval a set of actionable criteria for dissociation and a process for implementing them, now and in the future. The administrative committee aims to complete its work by the end of this academic year.

Charge to the Faculty Panel on Dissociation Metrics, Principles, and Standards

In order to implement the dissociation decision made by the Board of Trustees last spring, the University seeks impartial scholarly advice from a panel of its faculty, with expertise in fields including environmental studies, ethics, economics, public policy, and engineering, to address a set of relevant questions, including:

  • What metrics and standards should be used to assess whether a company is spreading climate disinformation or participating in disinformation campaigns? What information is available to assess whether a company is participating in a climate disinformation campaign? What distinguishes these acts from legitimate skepticism or challenging of scientific consensus?
  • What constitutes material participation by a company in the thermal coal or tar sands segment of the fossil fuel industry? What would be an appropriate rigorous standard or target for greenhouse gas emissions for companies in this segment of the fossil fuel industry? How can the greenhouse gas intensity of these companies be assessed?
  • What constructive engagement options exist to attempt to convince companies to remedy their conduct before dissociation? What standards and metrics can be used to assess whether a company is remedying its conduct? What is a reasonable time frame over which a company could be expected to make progress toward established standards and targets?
  • How can the metrics, standards, and targets referenced above be flexible enough to meet changing conditions over time? On what time frame should they be revisited to keep pace with evolving knowledge?

The faculty panel is encouraged to draw on additional expertise, within and beyond the University community, as needed to help answer these questions.

An administrative committee will use the findings of the faculty panel to propose for Board approval a set of actionable criteria for dissociation and a process for implementing them, now and in the future.  We would ask that the faculty panel present its findings to the administrative committee, and the broader University community, in a written report. We hope that the faculty panel will interact closely with the administrative committee as it performs its work; we also encourage the panel to update the broader community periodically while its work is in progress.

The administrative committee aims to complete its work by the end of this academic year. We hope the faculty panel will complete its report substantially before that, and ideally by the end of the fall semester if possible.

Faculty Panel

The Faculty Panel is composed of a diverse group of scholars with expertise in a variety of fields and practical experience working with a range of organizations, industries, companies, boards, advisory bodies, and governmental agencies. With backgrounds in environmental studies, ethics, economics, public policy, and engineering, members of the panel bring an interdisciplinary perspective to the work of the group. Brief biographies of each panel member, including current and former engagements with a range of organizations, are available below.

Administrative Committee

Hilary A. Parker (chair)
University Vice President and Secretary

Jim Matteo
University Vice President for Finance and Treasurer

Pablo Debenedetti
University Dean for Research

Jon Erickson
PRINCO Managing Director

Ramona Romero
University Vice President and General Counsel

Nakia Barr (secretary)
University Assistant Vice President