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.
Released 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:
- Satisfy Ethical Responsibility
- Minimize Financial Impact
- Maximize Academic Opportunity
- 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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