At this critical juncture in combating the worldwide threat of climate change, universities have vital leadership roles to play both as homes to climate science and as educators of tomorrow’s innovators.
President Drew Faust outlined Harvard’s commitment to continued focus on climate change via research, teaching and learning in a 2014 message to the Harvard community, and also in a Huffington Post op-ed with Stanford president John Hennessey. She conferred with President Xi of China and gave remarks on the topic at Tsinghua University, and again at a State Department panel on climate change in 2015.
Part of Harvard’s commitment comes through the creation of new research programs and funding opportunities. In 2015, President Faust launched the Climate Change Solutions Fund, designed to accelerate creative clean-energy solutions. She also announced the creation of the Harvard Global Institute, which will initially focus on climate-change related issues in China.
Harvard is also modeling the transition to a low-carbon future on its campus. In 2008, the University established an aggressive, science-based goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% below 2006 levels by 2016 across all its North American properties, inclusive of growth. In 2015, Harvard joined 318 institutions of higher education in signing the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge and reaffirmed this commitment in 2017.
A more comprehensive look at Harvard’s impact on climate change can be found on the University’s climate change web page.
In addition to Harvard’s extensive academic programming, President Faust has sponsored panels to discuss timely aspects of climate change. Last April, experts in science, politics, business, economics, and history shared their views of the massive challenges of climate change; in November, a group of academics, advisors and expert analysts convened to discuss the implications of the United Nations climate conference (COP21).
Recently a debate has emerged over whether universities should divest their endowments of any fossil fuel funds.
Universities’ endowments comprise the myriad gifts made by many individuals over many years to the advance their academic aims, not to serve other purposes, however worthy. As such, Harvard maintains a strong presumption against divesting investment assets for reasons unrelated to the endowment’s financial strength and its ability to advance academic goals.