Below are events relevant to the HFD’s efforts towards ensuring fossil fuel divestment in the Harvard community. Such events primarily include activities of the faculty and student campaigns, alumni campaigns, and statements released by the University. This timeline is a living document and is kept up-to-date as the campaign evolves.
September 21st, 2021
On September 21st, the faculty publishes an open letter in response for the Crimson. Link from the Crimson to come.
September 15th, 2021
Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard announces its vision of severing all fossil fuel industry ties on Harvard’s campus, including by holding Harvard accountable for following through on its commitment. Across higher academic spheres of influence, Divest Harvard also supports an advancement of a wholesale reinvestment of Harvard’s endowment and our broader institutions in a more just, regenerative economy.
September 9th, 2021
President Bacow announces plans for the Harvard Management Company to contribute to efforts towards “[decarbonizing] the economy.” In short, Harvard is on its way towards divestment.
September 7th, 2021
Around 80 students and community members rally for fossil fuel divestment and climate justice in Harvard Yard, calling for Harvard to recognize that its campus and community are not immune to the impacts of climate change
August 24th, 2021
Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard hires its new alumni coordinator, Caleb Schwartz, to support alumni efforts to end Harvard’s fossil fuel investments.
June 24th, 2021
Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard and state lawmakers introduce a bill in the Massachusetts legislature to divest Harvard from fossil fuels.
April 30th, 2021
Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard members meet with the MA Attorney General’s office to discuss their complaint filed against Harvard. A follow-up meeting occurs on July 30th.
Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard files a complaint with MA Attorney General Maura Healey, arguing the illegality of Harvard’s investments in fossil fuels per laws about how charitable organizations should allocate their investments.
May 8, 2020
In response to the Harvard Corporation’s announcement of a net-zero pledge by 2050, Harvard Medical School Faculty for Divestment sent a letter to President Bacow, with more than 170 signatories.
May 6, 2020
Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard, Harvard Forward, Harvard Alumni for Divestment, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Harvard Divestment send a detailed letter to the President and Fellows, also endorsed by Harvard Faculty for Divestment. The letter calls for more vigorous action than stated in the April 21, 2020, announcement. Fossil fuel divestment, more rapid decarbonization, interim goals for decarbonization, and specific transparency about progress, are called for, as well as exclusion of the use of carbon offsets. The letter also calls for a larger consultative body representative of students, faculty, and alumni, open transparency about involvement of fossil fuel companies in research and education at Harvard, and investments in a rapid and just transition to a clean energy economy.
May 5, 2020
At FAS meeting held on Zoom, Ned Hall asks about the decarbonization plan, its timeline, the continuing relation with fossil fuel companies, and the involvement of all relevant stakeholders in the Harvard community: not just members of the administration and the Corporation. President Bacow replies that the Corporation finds decarbonization a better plan than divestment, and that the proposed plan goal is “ambitious.” He also states that if decarbonization can occur sooner than 2050, then it will.
April 29, 2020
The Faculty Petition for Fossil Fuel Divestment counts 1123 signatures.
April 22, 2020: Earth Day
In a press release, Divest Harvard reacts to President Bacow’s message, recognizing progress in the right direction but finding the Corporation plan insufficient.
April 21, 2020
President Bacow sends a letter to all FAS faculty to inform them of the Corporation’s response. The letters states that: “The Corporation has directed the Harvard Management Company to develop a strategy to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the portfolio by 2050.” This process is viewed as a “path to decarbonize the overall endowment portfolio.”
February 26, 2020
HKS Dean Elmendorf replies to students that HKS faculty are considering to increase coverage of climate change, but that as dean he avoids making decisions that could be unpopular with “members of our community.”
February 18, 2020
Kennedy School students send a letter to Dean Elmendorf, asking him to strengthen the School focus on climate policies and politics.
February 14, 2020
As published in the Crimson, Divest Harvard activists occupy University Hall during a rally for the National Day of Divestment. They ask Harvard Corporation to answer the faculty vote by April 22, Earth Day.
February 12, 2020
Harvard Medical School Faculty Council vote 23-5 to support a motion calling the Corporation to remove all investments from companies making most of their profit from fossil fuels.
February 4, 2020
At FAS meeting, faculty vote 179-20 in favor of a motion urging the Corporation to divest from companies involved in developing further reserves of fossil fuels, and to subject all future investments to a process of decarbonization. President Bacow promises to bring the motion and vote to the Corporation.
December 3, 2019
Third debate at FAS meeting, focusing on the text of a motion to be voted at next meeting. The motion demands that the Corporation instruct HMC “to withdraw, and henceforth not pursue, investments in companies that explore for or develop further reserves of fossil fuels, or in companies that provide direct support for such exploration and development.” Main speakers: Nicholas Watson, Virginie Greene, Richard Thomas, Kirsten Weld, Ned Hall, Jim Engell.
November 27, 2019
A white paper titled “Harvard’s Response to the Climate Crisis” authored by eleven faculty of the Harvard Faculty Divestment group is circulated with the agenda of the FAS meeting for December 3.
November 23, 2019
Hundreds of protesters for divestment storm the field during halftime of the Yale-Harvard football game. About 50 protesters are arrested. The action was organized by Divest Harvard, Fossil Free Yale and the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition.
November 5, 2019
Second debate on climate change and divestment at FAS meeting. Main speakers are Joyce Chaplin, Charlie Conroy, and Stephen Marglin.
October 24, 2019
The “Ad Hoc Committee on Harvard Divestment” (a group of 12 alumni including Tim Wirth and Bill McKibben) send a letter to President Bacow and William Lee, senior member of the Corporation. In this letter, they ask 7 questions about Harvard investments, transparency, and conflicts of interest related to the fossil fuel industry. See the full letter below:
October 15, 2019
A group of alumni, students and faculty named “Harvard Forward” presents a slate of 5 candidates committed to “move Harvard toward divesting from fossil fuels” for the Board of Overseers elections in spring 2020.
October 1st, 2019
First debate on climate change and divestment at FAS meeting. The main speakers are Ned Hall, Jim Anderson, and Naomi Oreskes. See the recap of the debate in the Harvard Magazine.
September 20, 2019
Harvard affiliates and Cambridge residents meet on the Science Center Plaza to participate in the global climate strike. See this article from the Crimson published on the 20th, and another published on the 23rd.
May 30, 2019
An ad in the Commencement issue of the Crimson sums up the divestment petition and list most of the 289 faculty who signed it.
May 7, 2019
After the regular FAS meeting, Ned Hall leads a town hall about Harvard investment in fossil fuels, preparing for the debate in the fall that President Bacow has agreed to allow.
April 12, 2019
President Bacow comes unannounced to the forum on divestment organized by Divest Harvard and the Harvard Political Union, moderated by Ilana Cohen. He discusses with a panel of 3 faculty members (James Anderson, James Engell, Cornell West) and a Boston financial adviser (Karen Shapiro) the questions of engagement vs divestment, and the political use of the endowment.
April 4, 2019
Protesters from the Divest Harvard and the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign groups hold banners and sit on the stage during a forum at a Kennedy School forum on social policy featuring President Bacow and Dean Long (of GSE) as speakers. President Bacow moves the discussion to another room, saying that he responds to reason and not to pressure.
April 2, 2019
During FAS meeting, on behalf of nine faculty members, Prof. Ned Hall asks President Bacow to host an open forum about Harvard investment in the fossil fuel industry.
March 19, 2019
President Bacow reiterates the University’s position on divestment. In short, he asserts that Harvard’s endowment is not a mechanism to be used for social change; Harvard must continue to engage with the fossil fuel industry.
An ad hoc alumni group headed by former Senator Tim Wirth joins the cause of divestment and communicates several times with President Bacow and Senior Fellow William Lee. In addition, other alumni such as Roger Shamel and Valerie Nelson join the conversation and mobilize more alumni at various schools not only for divestment but for climate action at the university.
December 11, 2018
Twenty-one Harvard faculty members (“Harvard Faculty for Divestment”) send a petition to President Bacow and the Corporation asking Harvard to divest from fossil fuels. The petition has been signed by about 100 faculty members.
December 10, 2018
In an interview, President Bacow opposes divestment and argues that divesting would be impractical and ineffective. Instead, he says, “we need to be willing to work with those organizations and institutions that are responsible for the infrastructure that literally fuels our economy.”
December 5, 2018
The student group “Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice” send an open letter signed by 150 students asking President Bacow “to bring a new voice and vision to Harvard’s role in climate reform.” The letter asks Harvard Corporation to “take serious climate action” and propose to open discussions on pathways to divestment.
November 29, 2018
Six student groups host an event to talk about environmental justice and the intersections between the issues central to each student organization.
November 5, 2018
In the Harvard Political Review, Ilana Cohen reflects on the history of the divestment campaign since 2012, its victories and failures, and the hope of reviving it under a new University President.
May 22, 2018
Kathryn “Kat” A. Taylor ’80, a now former member of the University’s Board of Overseers, resigns over what she calls the University’s failure to “adopt ethical commitments” in its investments, citing fossil fuels specifically.
January 2, 2018
President Faust sends a letter announcing a “New Climate Action Plan” aiming at making Harvard fossil fuel-free by 2050, and fossil fuel-neutral by 2026.
April 24, 2017
Colin Butterfield, HMC’s head of natural resources, announces a pause in Harvard investments in some fossil fuels.
April 22, 2016
On Earth Day, the Paris Agreement is opened for signature in New York City. John Kerry signs on behalf of the United States.
April 29, 2016
Bloomberg News reports that the head of HMC broaches the possibility of investing in distressed oil and gas companies; a Harvard faculty member replies in a letter to the New York Times, April 20. The contemplated investments apparently are not executed.
November 30-December 12, 2015
The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) takes place at Le Bourget, near Paris. 196 nations participate. Members adopt a 12 page agreement aiming at decreasing the effects of global warming.
November 29, 2015.
About 785,000 people participate in the Global Climate March, organized by 350.org, Avaaz and many other groups.
Harvard Magazine publishes online a letter from concerned faculty regarding divestment. President Faust is asked in an FAS meeting if any member of the Corporation will engage in a public forum addressing divestment. She responds, no.
April 29, 2015
Open debate over divestment at the Belfer Center, Kennedy School of Government: James Engell v. Rebecca Henderson. Click this link to see the debate on YouTube.
June 18, 2015
Pope Francis publishes the encyclical Laudato si calling people of the world to act swiftly against global warming.
April 13, 2015
Harvard Divest blockade Massachusetts Hall during “Heat Week.”
Faculty promulgate “Divestment FAQ” publication.
October 26, 2014
Forum on fossil fuel divestment is held in Boylston Hall. The main speakers are James Anderson, Stephen Marglin, and James Engell.
October 17, 2014
A group of faculty from across the University meet with President Faust and Senior Fellow Bill Lee. The meeting results in no change in policy by the Corporation. Statements against divesting are repeated, but reasoned objections to those statements go unanswered. The administration stresses its commitment to running the university in a sustainable way but regards investments separately.
October 2, 2014
A long article in the Crimson sums up the divestment campaign since it beginning in 2012.
September 21, 2014
More than 300,000 people gather in New York City for the People’s Climate March organized by 350.org. and Avaaz.
June 5th, 2014
Bill McKibben’s “Call to Arms” appears in Rolling Stones.
May 28, 2014
Robert (Bob) Massie writes an Op Ed in the Crimson urging Harvard to divest from fossil fuel industry.
May 6, 2014
Stanford University announces that it will divest from coal mining industries.
May 1, 2014
Divest Harvard blockades Mass Hall. One student is arrested and released without charges.
April 10, 2014
93 Harvard faculty sign an open letter to President Faust and the Corporation urging them to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The Harvard Faculty Divest website is up. Subsequently, it provides updates on the reply of the Corporation and a response to that reply.
February 27, March 10, April 8, April 22, and April 30, 2014
A small core group of FAS and Medical School faculty, about six in number, meet to discuss a faculty response to the Corporation. This group continues to meet and reaches out to colleagues.
January 17, 2014
A small core group of FAS and Medical School faculty meet (with Bob Massie) to discuss divestment plans. Massie had written about South African divestment.
November 8, 2013
Forum on Fossil Fuel Divestment is held in Sever Hall, with Tim DeChristopher, Rebecca Henderson, Daniel Schrag, and James Engell as the primary speakers.
October 4, 2013
President Drew Faust writes a letter stating: “I do not believe, nor do my colleagues on the Corporation, that university divestment from the fossil industry is warranted or wise.”
April 12, 2013
The group “Divest Harvard” rallies at Massachusetts Hall and delivers a petition signed by over 1300 students, faculty and alumni asking for divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
November 17, 2012
At the Undergraduate Council presidential election, a referendum proposal advocating divestment of University funds from the fossil fuel industry obtains 72% of the undergraduate votes (3600 ballots).
The group Divest Harvard is created following the call to campuses that was put out by the organizations Students for a Just and Stable Future and 350.org. One of the founders of the Harvard group was Chloe Maxmin, class 2015.