Petroleum industry says Harvard endownment would forgo $108 million annually if it divests from fossil fuels

harvardThe Boston Globe | Friday, September 4, 2015

Harvard University would forgo $108 million of investment returns annually if it divested from the largest oil, gas and coal companies, according to a study funded by the petroleum industry.

The research is the latest in a debate about the best course for investors in the face of concerns about climate change. Opponents of divestment point to losses when institutions reduce diversification in their portfolios. Others warn of potential costs of holding shares in energy companies contributing to global warming.

While dozens of schools have committed to stop buying fossil fuel company stocks, most wealthier institutions such as Harvard declined, saying it goes against their fiduciary duty to rule out such investments. They said they contribute to a better understanding of global warming through research and teaching while cutting the carbon footprints of their campuses.

“If climate change is a first order problem, divestment is a very bad idea,” said Bradford Cornell, a visiting professor at California Institute of Technology who authored the report released Thursday. “This solution not only has a cost, it has no benefit.”

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