Campus Reform | Columbia University joins Ivy League opposition to fossil fuels

Columbia University joins Ivy League opposition to fossil fuels

Columbia University announced it has halted investments in fossil fuel companies.

Columbia University's decision is the latest in a broader Ivy League push to divest from fossil fuels.

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In an effort to combat climate change, Columbia University released a statement that it “does not hold any direct investments in publicly traded oil and gas companies and is formalizing this policy of non-investment for the foreseeable future." 

These policies came about after a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing, a committee that includes faculty, students, and alumni. 

According to the university announcement, the policies have the potential to spread to other industries that affect greenhouse gas emissions. The university has pledged that it plans to avoid investing in private funds that primarily invest in oil and gas companies. 

However, the policy recognizes that certain fossil fuel companies plan to transition their businesses to net-zero emissions by 2050. If companies can provide a credible plan to do so, the university said it might make an exception in the new rule. 

Columbia University is just the latest Ivy League school to gravitate toward fossil fuel divestment. As Campus Reform reported in 2019, students stormed the field during a Harvard-Yale football game to demand that their respective schools divest from fossil fuels. Just a few months later, the Harvard faculty voted in support of fossil fuel divestment.

[RELATED: UC system announces divestment from fossil fuels]

“There is an undeniable obligation binding Columbia and other universities to confront the climate crisis across every dimension of our institutions,” Columbia University President Lee Bollinger said. 

The new policies are accompanied by a revised set of principles for the Columbia University Investment Management Company (IMC). The IMC plans to invest more heavily in companies that actively fight to reduce greenhouse gases and contribute to net-zero emissions. 

Columbia University has been seeking out ways to fight climate change for years. In addition to the recent policy change, the university made the decision in 2017 to divest from thermal coal and created the Columbia Climate School in 2020.

[RELATED: UIUC shrugs shoulders at fossil fuel divestment demand]

Center for Industrial Progress President Alex Epstein told Campus Reform that he has a specific message for schools choosing to divest.

"To institutions divesting from fossil fuels: By discouraging the lowest-cost form of reliable energy you are not making the world a better place to live. You are keeping the world a terrible place for the billions of desperately poor people who desperately need abundant energy."

These changes at Columbia University come shortly after President Joe Biden signed an executive order to halt the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. As part of Biden’s $2 trillion clean energy infrastructure plan, he plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

This executive order resulted in the elimination of 11,000 jobs – 8,000 of which belong to union workers – in 2021. The Biden administration has still not released plans to address the severe job losses this order has caused. 

When asked for a comment, Columbia University responded with the link to the university announcement. 

Follow the author of this article: Addison Pummill