Schools

Here’s how the state could force Harvard to divest of fossil fuels

"Harvard is so well-positioned to be a leader here by leveraging the vast wealth and resources of its endowment, setting the example that they’re going to turn away from fossil fuel investments."

A view of the campus of Harvard University on July 08, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

New legislation filed by progressive lawmakers would invoke an article in the Massachusetts Constitution to mandate Harvard University’s divestment of fossil fuels.

This move represents a legislative angle to the long-pushed “divestiture” campaigns, which have targeted Harvard for years. At issue is $838 million, around 2% of Harvard’s $42 billion endowment, which is still invested in the fossil fuel industry. According to Harvard’s 2021 climate report, the percentage of the endowment invested in the fossil fuel industry has declined and is down from 11% in 2008.

“Harvard is so well-positioned to be a leader here by leveraging the vast wealth and resources of its endowment, setting the example that they’re going to turn away from fossil fuel investments,” bill sponsor Rep. Mike Connolly (D – 26th Middlesex), who wrote the legislation with Divest Harvard, told The Boston Globe.

Advertisement:

The constitutional article invoked by the bill gives the legislature the power to “alter” Harvard’s governance over the university, the Globe reported, but has been used only 11 times since the 1800s. 

Divest Harvard organizer Klara Kuemmerle told the Globe the university has not gone far enough.

“Eight-hundred thirty-eight million dollars in the fossil fuel industry is still far too much for a university,” she said. “It isn’t the money so much as it is the message conveyed that Harvard has completely and fully divested from fossil fuels, which it currently cannot say, even if it is a minimal 2 percent.”

Divestment campaigns are a historical method of the climate movement. Divest Harvard has been active since 2012, holding protests and demonstrations across campus.

“Fossil fuel divestment stigmatizes the fossil fuel industry for its culpability in the climate crisis and frames climate change as a moral crisis,” the Divest Harvard website reads. “By naming this industry’s singularly destructive influence — and by highlighting the moral dimensions of climate change — the fossil fuel divestment movement aims to shatter the hold that the fossil fuel industry has on our economy and our governments. …If Harvard divests, we show the country and world that we refuse to be complicit in this industry’s continued war on human and environmental health.”

Jump To Comments

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com