This was originally published as an op-ed in the Tufts Daily and is reprinted here with permission.
“This is the year to take action on climate change. There are no more excuses,” proclaimed Jim Yong Kim, current president of the World Bank, at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. “We can divest [from carbon-intensive assets],” he continued, saying that investing in the fossil fuel industry betrays investors’ “responsibility to future pension holders who will be affected by decisions made today.”
Less than three weeks later, Tufts University’s Board of Trustees voted to not divest from fossil fuels, citing “significant anticipated negative impact on Tufts’ endowment.”
As members of President Monaco’s Tufts Divestment Working Group, it quickly became clear to us that the group hadn't been created for “open discussion” about the possibility of divestment from fossil fuels, as Monaco claimed. Instead, it existed to generate financial models supporting the administration’s expectation that it was financially impossible.
In one of our committee meetings, Patricia Campbell, the executive vice president of our university, admitted that divestment could indeed be feasible—but it was clear to us that the administration wasn’t willing to consider the changes to Tufts’ investment strategy that divestment would entail. It was this lack of consideration given to fossil fuel divestment that colored the working group process and left us disappointed by our administration’s utter lack of good faith in its approach to the issue. In his Davos address, Kim said, “Corporate leaders should not wait to act until market signals are right and national investment policies are in place,” yet our administration continues to claim that Tufts should wait for the carbon bubble to burst before taking action.
Meanwhile, many corporate and institutional leaders are already taking leadership. Mayors of cities including Seattle, Madison and our own Somerville are pursuing divestment. Norwegian financial services firm Storebrand, which controls more than $60 billion in assets, has announced its intention to pull its investments out of coal and tar sands companies to ensure “long-term stable returns” because they know that those stocks will be “financially worthless” in the future. In January, the CEO of Google joined sixteen other managers of charitable foundations in divesting their assets from the fossil fuel industry. The list goes on.