In an open letter signed by more than 30 if Harvard University’s most high profile graduates, the university has been asked to halt investment in fossil-fuel companies from its $36 billion endowment.
Harvard’s critics include Hollywood star Natalie Portman, Robert Kennedy Jr., Maya Lin, Eric Chivian, US senators, preachers, academics, authors and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and is a figurehead for the divestment campaign.
The university is thought to have investments in oil, gas and coal companies that are worth at least $79 million. However, a figure that includes indirect investments is much greater.
The letter was released on Friday, hours before the university was taken to court by its own students over its investment policy.
Harvard is being attacked for investing in an industry that perpetuates the effects of global warming and puts current and future generations at risk.
In an open letter, the alumni said:
From the typhoon-battered Philippines to the disappearing islands of the Pacific to the water-starved towns of California’s drought-ridden Central Valley, this issue demands we all make changes to business as usual – especially those of us that have prospered from the systems driving climate change.
Harvard is facing increasing pressure from its students to divest and to follow the other 180 institutions around the world that have followed this path. These include the prestigious Stanford University in the US, faith organisations including the Quakers in Britain and the United Church of Christ in the US and the Rockefeller Foundation.
To date there are more than 500 active campaigns calling on universities, cities, churches, banks, pension funds and other institutions to halt investment in dirty energy.
Collectively these campaigns are challenging the social licence of the dirty industry, showing that its practices are no longer socially or morally acceptable, and offer a wake up call that energy companies can no longer burying their heads in the sand over climate change.
By taking back power from these companies, citizens are also delivering a mandate to governments to support bold climate leadership.
The campaign, which is the faster growing divestment campaign ever seen and moving quicker than those against tobacco and apartheid, has not just taken the activist world by storm but is moving quickly into the financial world.