This past Sunday, Brown University president Christina Paxson released a letter to the University Community saying the Brown University Corporation had decided not to divest from coal.
The letter comes in the wake of a battle fought by student-group Brown Divest Coal, who sat down with the Corporation to discuss divestment last May. The group’s cause was endorsed by the University’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies.
However, following the establishment by Paxson of an ad-hoc committee to investigate the possibility of divestment, the Corporation voted against the move. Paxson emphasized in the letter that although coal plays a large part in global climate change, it is also desperately needed by populations in many countries.
“I believe that although the social harm is clear, this harm is moderated by the fact that coal is currently necessary for the functioning of the global economy,” she wrote.
She also noted that the symbolism of a prominent university’s divestment isn’t as effective and clear as many have characterized it.
“Divestiture would convey only a nebulous statement — that coal is harmful — without speaking to the technological and policy actions needed to reduce the harm from coal—actions where Brown can make real and important contributions through teaching and research,” she wrote.
The announcement comes only three weeks after Harvard University President Drew Faust wrote in a letter to the University community that the Harvard Corporation would not be divesting from fossil fuels. In both their letters, Paxson and Faust emphasized the small effect their respective universities’ divestments would have on the fossil fuel industry, noting that divestment is not the correct strategy to have an impact on climate change.
Meanwhile, Fossil Free Yale, currently in its second year, has obtained over 1000 signatures from the Yale community for a petition urging the Yale Corporation to divest from all fossil fuel companies. It is currently urging the YCC to conduct a referendum on undergraduate support.
Currently, none of the eight Ivy League schools has divested from fossil fuels.