The announcement is simply a large triumph for the clime alteration movement, and marks a striking alteration successful code for the university.
Sept. 10, 2021Updated 4:52 p.m. ET
Harvard University has announced that it “does not intend” to marque immoderate aboriginal investments successful fossil fuels, and is winding down its bequest investments because, the university’s president, Lawrence S. Bacow, said successful an email to the Harvard community, “climate alteration is the astir consequential menace facing humanity.”
The announcement, sent retired connected Thursday, is simply a large triumph for the clime alteration movement, fixed Harvard’s $42 cardinal endowment and prestigious reputation, and a striking alteration successful code for the school, which has resisted putting its afloat value down specified a declaration during years of lobbying by student, module and alumni activists.
Since past year, the activism has succeeded successful getting 4 pro-divestment candidates elected to Harvard’s Board of Overseers, the archetypal candidates elected done a petition run since 1989, erstwhile anti-apartheid activists seeking divestment successful South Africa enactment Archbishop Desmond Tutu connected the panel, which helps acceptable strategy for the school.
Divestment battles are based connected the thought that assemblage endowments, being tax-free, person an work to wage attraction to the nationalist good, and that immense endowments similar Harvard’s whitethorn beryllium instruments for change.
Harvard activists anticipation that different institutions mightiness travel the university’s lead.
“People bash wage attraction to what Harvard does,” said Danielle Strasburger, a 2018 Harvard postgraduate who co-founded Harvard Forward, an alumni divestment movement, with a classmate, Nathán Goldberg Crenier.
“The information that Harvard is yet indicating that it is nary longer supporting the fossil substance assemblage is simply a ample domino to fall,” she said. “Hopefully this volition promote different universities to enactment the unit connected those who haven’t yet.”
Many different universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Brown and Cornell, person committed to divesting from fossil fuels. But galore others person not, and akin divestment movements person dispersed done universities crossed the country.
In his announcement, Mr. Bacow said the Harvard Management Company had been reducing its vulnerability to fossil fuels for immoderate time.
“H.M.C. has nary nonstop investments successful companies that research for oregon make further reserves of fossil fuels,” Mr. Bacow said. “Moreover, H.M.C. does not mean to marque specified investments successful the future.”
He added that Harvard did not judge specified investments were “prudent,” implying that determination were fiscal arsenic good arsenic ethical arguments for the decision. The absorption institution has bequest investments, arsenic a constricted spouse successful a fig of backstage equity firms with holdings successful the fossil substance industry, amounting to little than 2 percent of the endowment, Mr. Bacow said.
The evangelical code of Mr. Bacow’s announcement this week was antithetic from 2019, erstwhile helium confronted protesters demanding divestment from fossil fuels and prisons. Mr. Bacow told the protesters helium would respond to “reason” alternatively than “pressure.”
In April 2020, arsenic the overseers predetermination approached, Mr. Bacow said that divestment “paints with excessively wide a brush.”
In this week’s announcement, helium boasted that Harvard had appointed its archetypal vice provost for clime and sustainability, and that it was “building a portfolio of investments successful funds that enactment the modulation to a greenish economy.”
The question to power the committee of overseers gained enactment from much salient clime alteration advocates, similar erstwhile Vice President Al Gore. But immoderate Harvard alumni leaders wrote an unfastened missive saying that Harvard Forward was trying to “buy” the predetermination by fund-raising to enactment its campaign. The radical responded that it was conscionable “trying to democratize it.”
The run for fossil substance divestment astatine Harvard followed a playbook precise akin to the 1 utilized successful 1986, erstwhile Gay Seidman, a Harvard alumna who is present a sociologist astatine the University of Wisconsin-Madison, ran by petition connected an anti-apartheid level and was elected.
Other anti-apartheid candidates were elected successful consequent years, similar Archbishop Tutu. Harvard argued that divestment mightiness marque things worse for Black radical successful South Africa but began gradually divesting from its South Africa-related stock.
Alain Delaquérière contributed research.