October 3, 2012

CONTACT: Daniel Kessler,, 510-501-1779

Cambridge, MA — In a letter released today, Harvard President Drew Faust announced that the school’s governing board, the Harvard Corporation, won’t divest from fossil fuels. (1)

“I do not believe, nor do my colleagues on the Corporation, that university divestment from the fossil fuel industry is warranted or wise. The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change,” wrote Faust.

Students at Harvard and organizers with the national fossil fuel divestment campaign say that the announcement is an expected disappointment — and the signal they’ve been waiting for to intensify the campaign on campus and around the country.

“Well, not unexpected,” said Bill McKibben, a Harvard graduate and founder of, one of the campaigns helping coordinate the divestment campaign. “It took Harvard five years to figure out it didn’t want to be involved with apartheid in South Africa; one hopes that the efforts of students, faculty, and alumni mean this will happen more quickly.”

Faust argued that divestment from fossil fuels would hurt the bottom line for Harvard’s endowment, but an Associated Press analysis showed that fossil fuel free endowments would have a better rate of return over the past decade.

The AP wrote: “An endowment of $1 billion that excluded fossil fuel companies would have grown to $2.26 billion over the past 10 years, but an endowment that included investments in fossil fuel companies would have grown to $2.14 billion.” (2)

Seven schools committed to divest from fossil fuels over the last year, but this fall semester, a number of colleges across the country, such as Vassar, Pomona, and Middlebury, have been rejecting student requests to dump their fossil fuel stocks. The announcements have only energized the student divestment campaign.

“This is the fight we’ve been waiting for,” said Jay Carmona, the Divestment Campaign Manager for “Getting a clear rejection from a board of trustees or college president only serves to clarify the fight that’s underway on campus. Students are not backing down–they’re getting more fired up by the day.”

The divestment campaign has spread to over 300 colleges and universities across the country. This October 18-21, thousands of students will convene in Pittsburgh for US Power Shift, a national summit dedicated to building the youth climate movement and intensifying the fossil fuel divestment campaign. A week later, founder Bill McKibben will head to Europe for a week long tour to launch the divestment campaign there.

Harvard’s decision comes less than a week after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounded the alarm for immediate action on climate change and the necessity for keeping much of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, a reality that will affect investments in fossil fuels.

The report, known as AR5, finds with near certainty that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet and that climate impacts are accelerating–including greater sea ice melt, sea level rise, and dangerous ocean and surface level warming. It also finds that the red line for temperature increase, 2 degrees Celsius, remains possible to remain under but only if the world stays under its carbon limit.