Under pressure from student activists, Harvard divests from fossil fuels

Harvard University will stop investing in ventures related to the use of fossil fuels, the school announced after experiencing calls from activist students and lawmakers.

The Harvard Management Company will also be 'building a portfolio of investments in funds that support the transition to a green economy.'

After years of pressure from students, lawmakers, and other activists, Harvard University will phase out its investments related to fossil fuels.

In an announcement to the university community, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow explained that Harvard Management Company — which manages the school’s $42 billion endowment — has had “no direct investments in companies that explore for or develop further reserves of fossil fuels” since at least February 2021. 

Bacow further said that Harvard Management Company “does not intend to make such investments in the future.”

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“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,” he wrote, adding that “legacy investments as a limited partner in a number of private equity funds with holdings in the fossil fuel industry” are in “runoff mode and will end as these partnerships are liquidated.”

Accordingly, Harvard Management Company is “building a portfolio of investments in funds that support the transition to a green economy.”

Campus Reform has repeatedly reported on activism meant to encourage Harvard’s departure from fossil fuel investments.

In May, student governments at all eight Ivy League schools signed a joint resolution in calling each university to divest entirely from fossil fuels. Among the signatories was Noah Harris, Harvard’s student body president. 

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“Historically, institutions of higher education, and particularly the nation’s most visible and influential institutions, have been effective conduits for social change on issues of moral uncertainty,” asserts the resolution. “Experts acknowledge that divestment at scale is an effective way to combat climate change.”

In July, Massachusetts state lawmakers Erika Uyterhoeven and Mike Connolly, both Democrats, introduced a bill aiming to force Harvard to divest from fossil fuels.

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“No governing body of Harvard college [sic] shall directly or indirectly invest of the funds of the college, by holding stock, security, equity, asset or other obligation of a corporation or company, in an entity that produces fossil fuels, including coal, coke, distillate oil, residual oil, used oil fuel or natural or manufactured gas,” the bill reads. 

Connolly told Campus Reform at the time that Harvard “was originally established by an act of the colonial legislature in 1642, and when the Massachusetts state constitution was written and adopted in 1780, it explicitly specified that the state legislature would continue to have the ability to make changes at Harvard.”

Campus Reform reached out to Harvard University for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft