- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Harvard University has agreed to go carbon-neutral while refusing to budge from its longstanding opposition to divesting from fossil fuels, despite years of pressure from students, faculty and climate activists.

Harvard president Lawrence Bacow announced Tuesday that the university has directed the Harvard Management Company to develop a strategy for its endowment portfolio to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“By seeking to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions overall by 2050, we recognize that we are heading down a path that will be more complex to undertake and execute,” said Mr. Bacow in a statement. “But we believe that it will ultimately have a wider and deeper impact in the shared effort to confront the challenge of climate change.”

Mr. Bacow acknowledged that “advocates for divestment from fossil fuel companies may not be satisfied with this approach, but we believe that divestment paints with too broad a brush.”

“We cannot risk alienating and demonizing possible partners, some of which have committed to transitioning to carbon neutrality and to funding research on alternative fuels and on strategies to decarbonize the economy,” he said in a statement.



The pre-Earth Day announcement drew criticism from climate activists. Divest Harvard called the move “a step in the right direction” but argued that it was “nonsensical to discuss decarbonization while maintaining investments in fossil fuels.”

“A good-faith effort to reach carbon neutrality would have acknowledged that divestment is the logical first step,” said the Divest Harvard statement. “Instead, by not including divestment as one of its commitments today, Harvard is continuing to provide social and economic capital to the forces standing in the way of a decarbonized future. As the world burns, Harvard continues to defend the arsonists.”

Meanwhile, the pro-industry group DivestmentFacts applauded Harvard for taking action instead of making “empty political gestures.”

Harvard is avoiding divestment. Why? Because it is an act that does nothing to support the environment, a fact that President Bacow, former President Drew Faust, and numerous Harvard faculty and students have stated previously,” said DivestmentFacts, a project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

 

 

The organization noted that Harvard environmental policy professor John Holdren, who served as President Barack Obama’s science adviser, also opposed fossil-fuel divestment, calling it a “counterproductive form of action.”

“If university divestment of fossil-fuel companies were a good idea, surely divesting from all companies that use fossil fuels would be a much better one,” Mr. Holdren said Tuesday in the Harvard Crimson. “Of course, that would entail divestment of virtually all companies in the portfolio.”

His comments came after the Arts and Sciences faculty and medical school faculty passed resolutions in February urging Harvard to divest from fossil fuels. At $40 billion, Harvard holds the largest academic endowment in the world.

After years of pressure, the University of California system announced in September that it had divested its $13.7 billion endowment fund of fossil-fuel companies, and would do the same for its $70 billion pension fund, calling fossil-fuel assets a “financial risk.”

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