‘A Large Domino to Fall’ — Harvard to End Fossil Fuels Investments


Students demanding that Harvard University divest from fossil fuels block the entrance to University Hall on the school's campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 28, 2017. Keith Bedford / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Harvard University will divest its $41 billion endowment from fossil fuels, citing the financial imprudence of those investments, its leadership announced late last week.

The move from the nation’s oldest university, with the largest university endowment, is a dramatic turn in the years-long battle between the administration and organizers both on- and off-campus. The university’s statement did not set a timeline, nor use the words “divest” or “divestment,” but activists are taking the win.

“So long as Harvard follows through, this is divestment,” Connor Chung ’23, a Divest Harvard organizer, told the Crimson. “This is what they told us for a decade they couldn’t do, and today, the students, faculty, and alumni have been vindicated.”

Harvard’s announcement could have greater implications than just its sizable endowment. “The fact that Harvard is finally indicating that it is no longer supporting the fossil fuel community is a large domino to fall,” Danielle Strasburger, a 2018 Harvard graduate who co-founded an alumni divestment movement, told the New York Times. “Hopefully this will encourage other universities to put the pressure on those who haven’t yet.”

As reported by the Boston Globe:

The announcement is being hailed a major success by organizers on campus and beyond, and supporters of the broader movement hope that Harvard’s announcement will add fuel to the growing divestment movement — and not just on college campuses. Already, states, financial institutions, and private companies have joined the effort, in the hope the decisions they make with their investment dollars will pay dividends in the fight to combat the climate crisis. Given the size of Harvard’s endowment, its history of resistance, and its storied position as an institute, the decision to divest could have profound implications.

“The richest school on earth, which in 2013 pledged never to divest, has been forced to capitulate,” activist and divestment movement leader Bill McKibben wrote in a series of tweets. “I can’t overstate the power of this win. It will reverberate the world around.”

In recent years, divestment as a means of pressuring fossil fuel companies has gained steam. The concept is relatively simple: The less money that fossil fuel companies have at their disposal, the harder it is for them to operate. The less fossil fuels are burned, the less extreme the consequences of the climate crisis.

For a deeper dive:

Boston Globe, The New York Times, Harvard Crimson, The Washington Post, Democracy Now, The Hill, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, HuffPost, Reuters, The Guardian, AP, NPR, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter