Divestment campaigners at Harvard University are declaring a conditional victory, after managers of the institution’s US$36-million endowment agreed to “pause” some of their fossil fuel investments.
Acknowledging climate change as a “huge problem,” Colin Butterfield, head of natural resources at the Harvard Management Company, announced that “for now, we are pausing minerals and oil and gas,” The Guardian reports.
“I could honestly say that I doubt—I can’t say never, because never say never—but I doubt that we would ever make a direct investment with fossil fuels,” he said.
The university will still invest in fossils indirectly through outside funds.
“While Harvard hasn’t declared a full moratorium on fossil fuels, campaigners have hailed the pause as a breakthrough moment in the lengthy fight to get the university to divest,” The Guardian notes. For the last five years, Divest Harvard has demanded “that the university freeze new investments in fossil fuels, divest from direct holdings in the top 200 publicly-listed fossil fuel firms, and rid themselves of all indirect ties within five years.”
“Harvard is divesting through the back door—testimony to the great pressure applied by students, faculty, and alumni, but also to its establishment unwillingness to simply say forthrightly: the fossil fuel age must end,” said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben.
“Still, the significance is enormous: the richest and most famous educational institution on our planet is now siding with the future, not the past.”