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Harvard University to stop investing in fossil fuels after years of public pressure

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Harvard University has announced it will halt its investments in fossil fuels, a move activists – on and off campus – have been pushing the university to make for years.

In a Thursday Message to the Harvard CommunityPresident Lawrence Bacow said endowment fund managers do not intend to make more direct investments in companies that explore or develop fossil fuels, and that his historic investments in equity funds- investment with fossil fuel holdings “are in trickle-down mode and will end as these partnerships are wound up.

He noted that the university has not had direct investments in fossil fuels since June, and its indirect investments represent less than 2% of the total endowment. Harvard has the largest university endowment in the country, recording most recently at $ 41.9 billion.

“Given the need to decarbonize the economy and our responsibility as fiduciaries to make long-term investment decisions that support our teaching and research mission, we do not believe such investments are prudent. “Bacow wrote. He called climate change “the most serious threat facing humanity” and noted some of the other ways Harvard intends to deal with it.

Harvard Crimson notes that Bacow – who has been president since 2018 – and his predecessors have publicly opposed divestment, and that directors have focused on tackling climate change through education, research and sustainability efforts campuses.

Activists, students and alumni have long called on the university to take action by selling off its holdings of fossil fuels, with those voices growing louder in recent years.

Proponents of divestment have lodged legal complaints, storming the field in the 2019 Harvard-Yale Football Game, organized protests on campuses and won seats on school governance boards, according to The Crimson.

Activists call it a victory and a starting point

Defenders hail Thursday’s announcement as a victory, while warning that there is still work to be done.

“I can’t overstate the power of this victory,” tweeted environmentalist Bill McKibben. “It will reverberate through the world around him.”

He credited the activists with forcing “the richest school in the world, which in 2013 pledged never to give up … to capitulate”.

Advocacy group Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard called the decision “proof that activism works, outright.”

Its celebration was not without reservations, however.

A group statement criticized Bacow for not using the word “divest” and urged the university to keep its commitments, to fill the gaps in its net-zero by Endowment pledge 2050 and “stop lending prestige and power” to the fossil fuel industry in other ways.

“This announcement is a massive victory for activists and for the planet”, Fosshe Fuel Divis Harvard tweeted. “Much work remains of course, and our movement will be there to ensure that for Harvard this is just the start when it comes to building a fairer and more stable future.”

Read more here about the broader push for divestment from fossil fuels at colleges and universities across the country.


This story originally appeared on the Morning edition live blog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.





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