A group lead from the top by Bill McKibben’s 350.org group is pushing for fossil fuel divestment at Harvard University, citing the recent election as even more of a reason to divest from fossil fuels, and especially from coal.
The group Divest Harvard wants the university to take three actions; “Immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies, immediately divest direct holdings from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies” and “Divest indirect holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies within 5 years, and reinvest in socially responsible funds”.
The group takes much of its material from Fossil Free, a project of 350.org, a group founded by Bill McKibben that seeks to restrict access to fossil fuels in order to fight climate change.
On February 17, the group sent a letter to the administration asking for the university to divest endowment funds from fossil fuel companies, targeting 200 companies compiled by 350.org. The full list is hidden behind a paywall, but is said to contain the names of the top 200 energy companies by potential carbon outputs based on held reserve. According to the group, the impetus to divest is more dire due to the Trump administration:
The last time we wrote to you we lived in a different political world. Now, President Donald Trump poses a threat to progress on the climate crisis. President Trump’s actions, including his appointment of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, his statement to remove the U.S. from COP 21, his promise to repeal the Climate Action Plan, his questioning of the very existence of global warming and climate change, and his commitment to revive the fossil fuel industry, signal an antagonistic approach to climate science and a disregard for the severity of anthropogenic climate change.
Divesting from fossil fuels could be difficult for endowments to do, as many rely on index funds which often include fossil fuel stocks. For example, 20% of Harvard’s endowment is in either “domestic equity” or “natural resources”, which would be difficult to invest in without having funds in fossil fuel companies. A common domestic equity fund is an S and P 500 fund for example. As the S and P 500 includes companies such as Exxon Mobil, Anadarko Petroleum, and Cabot Oil and Gas.
Divest Harvard did not immediately respond to requests for comment.