After years of public pressure, Harvard University announced that it is going to end its investments in fossil fuels, bringing praise from disinvestment activities who had long pressed the university to divest from this sector.
In a letter posted on Harvard’s website, President Lawrence Bacow – who had for years opposed disinvestment – said that the school’s funding had no direct investments in fossil fuel exploration or development companies as of June and promised that the school will not make any investments in future citing the need to “decarbonize the economy”.
Bacow wrote that he does not see investments in the fossil fuel sector as important. Commenting on climate change, he said that climate change remains an imminent threat to humanity and he also noted ways Harvard aims to address it.
He also wrote that Harvard is developing a portfolio of investments in funds that support the transition to a green economy. He further added that the university has made investments along with the Massachusetts Institute of technology in the Engine – a fund, which among other things aims to accelerate the development of technologies that promise to tackle the challenges posed by climate change.
The university’s indirect investments in the fossil fuel industry “are in runoff mode,” he added. The indirect investments, made through private equity funds, make up less than 2% of the endowment, he wrote. Recently valued at $42 billion, more than any university, the school’s endowment has been under pressure from students, alumni, and other activists to sell the fossil fuel holdings to pave the way for a greener future.
For much of the past decade, top officials at the university had resisted disinvestments in fossil fuels but recently changed their stance under new leaders, including Bacow since 2018. Divest Harvard, one of the activist groups on Twitter called the move a massive victory for the community and climate conservation movement and a force against the power of the fossil fuel industry.