Stanford votes to divest $18B endowment from coal
The vote came at the behest of a student group, Fossil Free Stanford, that works with the climate activist group 350.org. A campus referendum last month found 78 percent of undergraduates supported divestment.
A committee of faculty, staff, students and alumni considered the group’s petition from last year and concluded that there are alternatives to coal that are less environmentally harmful. The university’s policies allow trustees to take “substantial social injury” into account when making investment decisions.
In addition to divesting its endowment, Stanford will recommend that its external investment managers avoid coal companies. It won’t take any action on other forms of fossil fuels, including natural gas and oil.
Investments involved remain a secret
Students don’t actually know how much money Stanford has invested in coal or other fossil fuels.
“If we were with the University of California system, they have to disclose everything, but Stanford doesn’t have to, and doesn’t,” said Michael Peñuelas, a junior majoring in Earth systems who worked on the campaign.
“We’ll keep pushing,” Peñuelas said. “If enough substantial social injury is occurring from climate change as a result of coal combustion, then it makes sense to us that they would go ahead and divest from other fossil fuels because those are also responsible for driving climate change.”
According to 350.org, 11 other colleges and universities are pursuing fossil fuel divestment, including Hampshire College, Pitzer College and San Francisco State University. Stanford is so far the most prominent school to take a stand against fossil fuel investment.
“Stanford, on the edge of Silicon Valley, is at the forefront of the 21st-century economy; it’s very fitting, then, that they’ve chosen to cut their ties to the 18th-century technology of digging up black rocks and burning them,” said 350.org founder Bill McKibben. “Since it’s a global institution, it knows the havoc that climate change creates around our planet; other forward-looking and internationally minded institutions will follow, I’m sure.”