Harvard says it won't invest in fossil fuels

Harvard University has announced that it “does not intend” to make any future investments in fossil fuels and that it is ending its hist...


Harvard University has announced that it “does not intend” to make any future investments in fossil fuels and that it is ending its historic investments because, the president of the university, Lawrence S Bacow, said in an email to the Harvard community, “Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity.

The announcement, sent Thursday, is a major victory for the climate change movement, given Harvard’s $ 42 billion endowment and prestigious reputation, and a stark change of tone for the school, which has resisted putting his full weight behind such a statement for years. pressure from students, professors and former activists.

Since last year, activism has succeeded in electing four pro-divestment candidates to Harvard’s board of directors, the first candidates elected via a petition campaign since 1989, when anti-apartheid activists seeking to divest in Africa of the South put Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the board, which helps shape the school’s strategy.

The divestment battles are premised on the idea that university endowments, being tax exempt, have an obligation to pay attention to the public good, and that huge endowments like Harvard’s can be instruments of change.

Harvard activists are hoping other institutions could follow the university’s lead.

“People pay attention to what Harvard does,” said Danielle Strasburger, a 2018 Harvard graduate who co-founded Harvard Forward, an alumni divestment movement, with classmate Nathán Goldberg Crenier.

“The fact that Harvard is finally signaling that it no longer supports the fossil fuel community is a big domino to drop,” she said. “I hope this will encourage other universities to put pressure on those who have not yet done so.

Many other universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Brown, and Cornell, have made commitments to move away from fossil fuels. But many more have not, and similar divestment movements have spread to universities across the country.

In his announcement, Mr Bacow said the Harvard Management Company has been reducing its exposure to fossil fuels for some time.

“HMC does not have direct investments in companies that explore or develop new reserves of fossil fuels,” Mr. Bacow said. “In addition, HMC does not intend to make such investments in the future.

He added that Harvard did not think such investments were “prudent,” implying that there were financial and ethical arguments for the decision. The management company has legacy investments, as a limited partner in a number of private equity firms with stakes in the fossil fuel industry, representing less than 2% of the endowment, Bacow said.

The evangelical tone of Mr Bacow’s announcement this week was different from 2019, when he clashed with protesters demanding divestment from fossil fuels and prisons. Mr Bacow told protesters he would respond to “reason” rather than “pressure”.

In April 2020, as the supervisor elections approached, Mr Bacow said the divestment “paints too broad a brush.”

In this week’s announcement, he boasted that Harvard had appointed its senior vice-president, climate and sustainability, and that he “was building a portfolio of investments in funds that support the transition to an economy green “.

The move to influence the supervisory board has gained support from more prominent climate change advocates, such as former vice president Al Gore. But some former Harvard alumni executives wrote an open letter saying Harvard Forward was trying to “buy” the election by raising money to support its campaign. The group replied that it was “just trying to democratize it”.

The campaign to divest from fossil fuels at Harvard followed a textbook very similar to that used in 1986, when Gay Seidman, a Harvard alumnus who is now a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, petitioned about an anti-apartheid platform and was elected.

Other anti-apartheid candidates were elected in the following years, such as Archbishop Tutu. Harvard argued that the divestment could worsen the plight of blacks in South Africa, but has started to gradually pull away from its South African-related actions.

Alain Delaquériere contributed research.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Harvard says it won't invest in fossil fuels
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