Harvard “Pauses” Fossil Fuel Investment in Natural Resources Portfolio; Students Celebrate Step Toward Divestment

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Lindsay Meiman, lindsay@350.org

Harvard “Pauses” Fossil Fuel Investment in Natural Resources Portfolio; Students Celebrate Step Toward Divestment

WASHINGTON - After years of escalated pressure from students, faculty and alumni, Harvard University is taking a significant step toward fossil fuel divestment. Earlier this week, at a Climate Week event entitled, “How Harvard’s Endowment is Thinking About Climate,” Colin Butterfield, Harvard Management Company’s (HMC) Managing Director of the Committee of Natural Resources said that HMC is “pausing” direct investments in oil, gas, and coal in the natural resources portfolio.

“We’re heartened to hear Butterfield acknowledge the gross injustice of climate change. Oil, coal, and natural gas are no longer economically, or morally, viable options,” says Isa Flores-Jones ‘19, Divest Harvard Coordinator.

Butterfield’s comments come just one month after Divest Harvard’s blockade of University Hall. This was the most recent demonstration of a five year campaign, which has called upon Harvard University to divest its 37.5 billion dollar endowment from the top 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies with the largest carbon reserves.

Referring to climate change, Butterfield asked, “Who is paying the price?...I clearly feel that we are stealing from future generations.”

Harvard University has not yet declared a permanent moratorium on fossil fuel investments. And while Butterfield is no longer considering direct energy investments, he was quick to note that policies on indirect investments are decided by an “Investment Committee.” These third party managers are free to invest in oil, coal and natural gas.

There is a precedent for beginning a transition away from indirect fossil fuel investments. Jameela Petuccini, Former Vice President of Sustainability for HMC, is currently leading the way towards full divestment of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund portfolio.

“We’re celebrating this pause on direct energy investments,” says Naima Drecker-Waxman ‘18, Divest Harvard Student Outreach Coordinator. “Looking forward, we’re excited to work towards a policy that institutionalizes full fossil fuel divestment.”

This comes as students across the country are escalating their calls for fossil fuel divestment. Yesterday, students from University of California Berkeley staged a sit-in, calling for full divestment. Students at Swarthmore College continue their occupation of the President's’ office. Meanwhile, campaigns at CU Boulder, Columbia University, Ohio State University, Boston University, and Northeastern University continue escalation.

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350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. But solutions exist. All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350. This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.

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