Climate Action

Harvard board member calls for divestment from fossil fuels

An outgoing board member of Harvard University has become the latest senior figure to call on the institution to divest from fossil fuels.

  • 03 April 2018
  • Adam Wentworth

An outgoing board member of Harvard University has become the latest senior figure to call on the institution to divest from fossil fuels.

Kathryn Taylor, who sits on the Board of Overseers, penned the letter last week, which implores the University to “at a minimum” divest from fossil fuels companies “to prevent the end of life as we know it through cascading climate-driven disasters”.

“This single act would not only take steps to address the existential crisis of our time, but it would allow the University to lead its peers”, she adds, noting that very few other American universities have taken a stance on the issue.

Ms Taylor, who is also the wife of noted green philanthropist Tom Steyer, made the call as she will soon be standing down from her six-year term on the board. During this time she has “tried everything else” behind closed doors to enact change, but “this is too important for me to remain silent”.

The University has so far resisted efforts to drop investments in fossil fuel stocks from its $37.1 billion endowment fund, reportedly the largest of its kind, despite repeated campaigning. 276 of its own staff have to-date signed a letter calling on the University to divest from fossil fuel companies “as an act of conscience and fiscal responsibility”.

In contrast, Harvard did unveil plans last month to ensure all of its campus operations are fossil-free by 2050, and neutral by 2026. This includes all heating, vehicles and power to come from renewable and clean sources. Harvard’s President, Drew Faust, noted at the time that “the grave risks climate change poses to our health and our planet’s future require essential action”. This new stance has so far not extended to the University’s financial interests though.

Other noted academic institutions, such as Stanford University and Edinburgh, have responded to campaigns to divest from climate-damaging industries. While Stanford hasn’t divested stocks, it made the decision in 2014 to avoid direct investments in the coal industry.