At $39.2 billion, Harvard University’s endowment is the largest academic fund in the world—not all of which actually goes to academia. A large chunk is invested in private funds, bonds, and other financial instruments that don’t have to disclose what they’re betting on. That means there’s a good chance that money is tied to companies whose products are directly tied to heating up the planet, such as fossil fuel companies.
Harvard’s sly investment scheme, however, is not going unnoticed. Student activists, alumni, and public officials alike have been filling the university’s main square and protesting, filling the days with classes on climate and “civil disobedience training”, and calling for the school to divest from fossil fuels. Campaigners have been pushing Harvard to purge its endowment of fossil fuels for years, but this latest effort may be the largest and strongest yet.
The renewed calls for fossil fuel divestment at Harvard is part of a worldwide movement to confront the fossil fuel industry’s finances, slowly chipping away at the pool of investors willing to bet on coal, oil, and natural gas. Just this week, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a bill to allow federal employees to divest their retirement accounts from fossil fuels. And you know what’s amazing about the divestment movement? It’s actually working. To date, activists say they have secured more than $8 trillion in divestment commitments from more than 1,000 philanthropies, schools, pension funds, and other institutions.
There’s obviously still a ton of persuading to be done in order to get institutions like Harvard to divest, but at least we’re seeing more and more funds divest from fossil fuels.