This past weekend, Mark Campanale, founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, visited Goshen College’s campus to provide lectures and discuss the future of investing in oil and gas companies. Campanale spoke twice, first in a presentation Sunday evening, Oct. 2 and then during a bonus convocation panel discussion the following Monday morning to continue the conversation and engage the student body.The Carbon Tracker Initiative is a group of financial experts that offer analyses and map the financial risk in investing in fossil fuels. Their goal is to encourage the divestment of large oil and coal companies and to allocate those investments into clean and renewable energy.
Campanale had a 25-year background in sustainable financial analysis before starting the Carbon Tracker Initiative. In his Sunday night lecture, “Climate at the Crossroads: The Investor Role in Achieving a Low-Carbon Future”, Campanale stated that he felt the need to start something like the Carbon Tracker Initiative when he noticed the United Kingdom market was investing billions into oil and coal industries without a mention of climate change.
“Companies are overstating energy demand, underestimating the role of renewable sources and ignoring the looming changes in energy,” he said. “Renewable energy is on its way faster than people think.”
Much of Campanale’s rationale for reinvesting in more sustainable energy sources is backed up by the current drop in the profits and resilience of fracking and drilling in remote areas of the world, compounded by the increasing speed and availability of cleaner, renewable energy.
“Technology has moved quickly throughout history,” he said, citing an example of the Ford Model T. His slide showed a side-by-side comparison of a city street in the early 20th century, clustered with horses and carriages in one image and featuring only the automobile pioneer in the other. The difference in years between the two was 13 years. “The Ford Model T dropped 62 percent in price during this time.”
Campanale puts his faith in companies such as Apple, Google and Tesla to pave the way for this clean technology future, rather than government regulations. He stated in his lecture that transition pathways in our world’s economy take global commitment.
He went on to say that oil companies have not been truthful in their forecasts for the demand of energy in the near and distant future. Rather, the Carbon Tracker Initiative reports that demand will decrease. Oil companies have recently put increased amounts of money into drilling in hard to access places, such as the Arctic and deep sea drilling. Renewable energy on the other hand, such as photovoltaic cells, has decreased in price by over 99 percent in the past 40 years.
Campanale’s visit to Goshen College was at an opportune time, as many are involved in the conversation of divesting Goshen’s endowment funds in the very companies that Campanale has discussed. Hannah Yoder, a junior, and Cecilia Lapp Stoltzfus, a senior, have done extensive work over the past year to bring awareness to the GC Divest movement to encourage the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) to divest in fossil fuel companies.
Yoder and Lapp Stoltzfus led a presentation and discussion alongside Campanale Tuesday evening, Oct. 4 to further the dialogue about the logistics of MEA’s investment process.
Glenn Gilbert, the Sustainability Coordinator for Goshen College, helped organize and was present for much of Campanale’s visit.
“How to address the crisis is very important,” Gilbert said, “and it will no longer be resolved without the combined effort and voices of many people. I’m hopeful that the Goshen College community will take [Campanale’s] message seriously and find the creative imagination and the will to add our voice to the call for the end of the fossil fuel trajectory that has brought the world to this point of crisis.”