Before the dinner break, Peter Hulac, the moderator of the 222nd General Assembly’s Immigration and Environment Committee, took an straw poll to see where the committee stood on its views about whether on not to seek divestment from oil companies.
Hula offered three options: divest now, a middle option following the suggestions of the committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), and no divestment at all. The results were 20 for divest now, 32 for the middle ground, and 3 for no divestment.
However, when the committee members reconvened after dinner, things didn’t go as expected. Assuming that 09-01, which calls for divestment, would fail, the committee sped to its vote on the proposal, skipping over any amendments as unnecessary. But when the votes were counted, the results were 31 in favor and 25 against, causing 09-01 to pass without amendment.
The shocked room paused for prayer and then went back to business, dispensing with the other options they had thought would have been cobbled together into a final proposal. Along with this, some registered their disapproval and requested information on how to go about submitting a minority report to the General Assembly.
Not only was this a surprise to all in the room, but it goes against the wishes of MRTI, a 12-member committee that lobbies for social justice issues with companies the Board of Pensions has invested in. Despite nearly 60 people waiting in line and voicing their opinions in favor of 09-01 and its call for divestment, many on the committee seemed to be persuaded by testimony against divestment and in favor of focused engagement with fossil fuel companies by members of MRTI and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP).
The divide in the committee will probably be echoed when the proposal is brought to the General Assembly for its vote. The question is: Will that vote be taken before or after dinner?