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Harvard to sign Principles for Responsible Investment and set up $20m climate fund



The president of Harvard University has announced its intention to fund projects that will help improve sustainability and tackle climate change – a year after it was revealed that the school would not be divesting from fossil fuels.

Drew Faust announced the creation of a Climate Change Solutions Fund on Monday, which aims to raise $20m (£12m) so that students can send proposals for low-carbon projects.

In a letter to the student community, she wrote, “Ideas, innovation, discovery and rigorous independent thought will serve as indispensable elements in combating the climate threat; these are the special province of universities.

“Harvard has the opportunity and the responsibility to help create the path to a sustainable future. We can and must galvanise the deep commitment of students, faculty, staff and alumni to work together to move us closer to a world founded on renewable energy.”

Faust added that the university wanted to act in three different areas: research, energy use and investment, adding that Harvard had become a signatory of the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project.

She wrote, “Both these significant steps underscore our growing efforts to consider environmental, social and governance issues among the many factors that inform our investment decision-making, with a paramount concern for how the endowment can best support the academic aspirations and educational opportunities that define our distinctive purposes as a university.

Commenting about Harvard’s decision to become a signatory of the PRI, managing director Fiona Reynolds said, “Harvard University is the first US endowment to publicly commit to investing its funds in a more responsible and sustainable manner, and we are thrilled to welcome them to the PRI.

Sustainable investment is one of the world’s fastest growing investment trends and Harvard’s leadership provides a model for other US universities.”

In October last year, Faust announced that Harvard would not be cutting its ties with fossil fuel companies, despite calls from students to do so. She described the move as not “warranted or wise”.

The university’s finance arm had previously hired a vice-president to focus entirely on sustainable investing.

Photo: See-ming Lee via flickr

Further reading:

Vermont students call for rethink after fossil fuel divestment is rejected

Yes, we too can profit by killing the planet because… we’re Harvard

Fossil fuel divestment is neither ‘warranted or wise’, says Harvard president

US academics: fossil fuel divestment reduces long-term financial risks

Students criticise Harvard’s ‘false neutrality’ over fossil fuel divestment