Fossil fuel divestment at colleges more about the conversation than the money

Monday, May 18, 2015

The University of Colorado, Ivy League Harvard University and small, elite Swarthmore College have at least one thing in common: a decision to hang on to their investments in fossil fuel companies.

Meanwhile about 100 universities and foundations, including Stanford University and Syracuse University, have committed to divest all or part of their fossil fuel investments.

The key question is what impact does divestment have on the fossil fuel companies and on the university and foundation finances.

“It is a mixed bag,” said Ben Caldecott, director of an environmental risk program at Oxford University in England. “The act of selling shares doesn’t have an impact because someone else will buy them. The question is what are the campaigners trying to achieve?”

Fossil fuel stocks account for just 2 percent of the $396 billion in U.S. university endowments, according to a study co-authored by Caldecott. So they don’t have a big impact on the schools or the companies.

But divestment advocates say the impact of their campaigns can’t be measured just on the balance sheet.

Source: The Denver Post (link opens in a new window)