Harvard Students Sue University to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Student organizations are sparking divest campaigns across the country. Some schools, such as Pitzer College and Unity College, have fully made the commitment to divest from fossil fuels. Other universities, such as Stanford, have committed to divest from certain fossil fuels, such as coal. Many divestment campaigns feel that their universities are not doing enough to fight the global battle to combat climate change.

Photo courtesy of flickr

Photo courtesy of flickr

A group of Harvard students, the Harvard Climate Change Coalition, has brought their grievances to the courts by suing the Harvard Corporation, demanding that their university stop profiting from the destruction of the earth’s climate and that it divest its holdings in gas, oil and coal companies.

The Coalition believes that “by financially supporting the most dangerous industrial activities in the history of the planet, the Harvard Corporation is violating commitments under its charter as well as its charitable duty to operate in the public interest.”

The Harvard Climate Change Coalition is also suing on behalf of future generations. The Coalition stated, “By investing in the extraction of fossil fuels, the Harvard Corporation is actively supporting the destruction of the earth’s atmosphere and the catastrophic consequences that will be visited upon our children and grandchildren. It is our duty to give voice to these coming generations and to hold the Corporation accountable for its reckless and shortsighted behavior.”

In response to the Coalition's lawsuit, Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s president, has argued that dropping fossil fuel investments is not “warranted or wise.” The university’s endowment, she said, “is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.”

Faust has also previously stated that Harvard would integrate “environmental, social and governance factors” into its investments in ways that are “aligned with investors’ fiduciary duties.”

The Harvard students’ decision to file a lawsuit filed came after it became clear to the students that they were reaching a dead end with the university’s administration. The lawsuit itself is unusual, invoking a tort, “intentional investment in abnormally dangerous activities,” that has no apparent precedent in law.

Photo courtesy of flickr

Photo courtesy of flickr

Climate Justice at Boston College, like many other university divestment organizations, has seen a great amount of backlash from university officials, receiving no clear hope of university divestment in the near future. The club, while not a recognized student organization, has rallied students in hopes to promote the divestment of BC from fossil fuels across campus.

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