By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — Building on the local climate change divestment movement, the City Council voted 11-1 June 20 to pull its investments from fossil fuels.
After Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design students attracted national attention with recent campaigns to divest from coal companies, Councilman Seth Yurdin introduced a resolution to have the city withdraw from its fossil-fuel investments. Seven council members quickly signed the resolution.
“A major contributor to (climate change) is fossil fuels, the number one source of greenhouse gases,” Yurdin said at the recent City Council meeting.
The council last agreed in 2006 to divest from companies doing business in Darfur, Yurdin said. “This is a statement that has a successful record of bringing about social change," he said.
A dozen activists from the Fossil Free RI campaign, including four Brown and RISD students, applauded after the resolution passed.
“Rhode Island is at the forefront of the divestment movement across the country,” said Nick Katkevich, an organizer for Fossil Free RI. Providence is the second capital city and the largest on the East Coast to pass a fossil-fuel divestment resolution, he said.
The group, which has drawn inspiration from the national 350.org project, plans to work next on divestment campaigns at Rhode Island College, the University of Rhode Island and the Community College of Rhode Island.
Colleen Smith of Wakefield was one of several activists to hold a “Divest The Ocean State” sign during the short discussion of the resolution. “Rhode Island is a better place to live,” she said after the vote. The state is almost as progressive as Portland, Ore., where she recently lived. “I’m glad (Rhode Island) is getting more environmentally friendly. It makes me want to stay here," she said.
The resolution is an advisory to the city’s Board of Investment Commissioners, a board appointed by the mayor. Council member Samuel Zurier, who voted in favor of the resolution, said he plans to introduce a comprehensive investment policy to guide the investment commissioners on controversial investments. The policy will be modeled after investment guides used in California and New York.