Dartmouth College Releases Historic Fossil Fuel Divestment Recommendation

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Dartmouth College, one of the big US Ivy League schools, has released a historic report recommending fossil fuel divestment.

In March of 2014, community grassroots movement Divest Dartmouth presented College President Phil Hanlon with a signed petition formally requesting that Dartmouth divest from its fossil fuel holdings. In August of that year, Hanlon requested that the College Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility prepare a report analyzing the pros and cons of fossil fuel divestment.

Dartmouth-1Released this week, the resulting report (PDF) provides a full assessment of the pros and cons of fossil fuel divestment, but goes further still, by providing “a more comprehensive decision analytic approach” to the idea of fossil fuel divestment. The authors of the report identified four broad objectives of fossil fuel divestment:

  1. Satisfy Ethical Responsibility
  2. Minimize Financial Impact
  3. Maximize Academic Opportunity
  4. Realize Symbolic Importance

The authors of the report concluded that “Deciding whether to divest is more complex than a simple binary yes/no choice.” The report, therefore, provided four separate divestment options:

  • the self-explanatory No Action option
  • the Incremental option, which would see Dartmouth only divest from fifteen of the largest polluting coal companies in the US
  • Divest Dartmouth, divestment from direct holdings in the 200 largest public coal, oil, and gas reserve owners
  • and the Complete option, which is a complete divestment from direct holdings in all fossil fuel companies and reinvestment in clean and green energy companies

No single option was found that met all objectives, so subjective prioritization of the objectives was suggested. Nevertheless, several conclusions were provided, including the report’s primary conclusion: “If no action is taken on divestment, there will be a decline in the fulfillment of objectives associated with the disappointment that this choice will generate among students and alumni who have been calling for divestment over the past several years.”

“This report is a clear sign that Dartmouth will and must divest,” said Megan Larkin, a member of the Class of 2019 and lead organizer of Divest Dartmouth.

Perhaps the most telling sign was the report’s assessment of the financial impact of fossil fuel divestment: “Of more direct relevance to Dartmouth is the fact that, while Dartmouth directly holds approximately $43M in fossil fuel related assets, the vast majority (>95%) of that amount is held in working capital pools, with only about $2M held in the endowment. Thus, even with full divestment of direct endowment holdings, the potential financial impact of any reasonable estimate of the diversity penalty would be minimal.”

“It seems strange to talk so much about climate change and its drastic consequences without talking about a way for Dartmouth to ameliorate that,” added Ariel Wertheim, another Divestment Dartmouth organizer. “In fact, it almost undermines our learning when the professor says one thing but the institution does another.”

Image Credit: Dartmouth College, Facebook

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

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6 thoughts on “Dartmouth College Releases Historic Fossil Fuel Divestment Recommendation

  • Divestment may become the biggest tool in the tool box for the dismantling of the fossil fuel industry. May be this will drive enrollment numbers up at Dartmouth.

  • The answer is simple: you either believe that emitting billions of tons of greenhouse emissions will ultimately be disastrous to our planet or you don’t believe it.
    Either way it won’t be pretty and the near panic of replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy will make coal, oil and gas worse than worthless.

    • I agree. If Dartmouth hesitates, they may lose a lot of money that they could have had if they acted quickly.

      • Many educational and public institutions already have – by sticking with this sector through its most recent slide in value.

  • Sorry this report is w weak weasel. They couldn’t even take “No Action” off the table.
    Calling it “Historic” it worse than a story saying this weeks sale is the “Sale of the year”.

  • Boards infamously don’t listen to these reports. The only way to get their attention is to point out that investment in fossil fuel companies is a guaranteed way to WASTE the endowment, since these companies typical have $0 in assets (since the fossil fuels in the ground cannot be burned and will be worthless in a few years) and multibillions of dollars in liabilities.

    Threats of lawsuits for WASTING the endowment are the only thing which they’ll listen to.

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