Harvard University Will Divest Its $42B From Fossil Fuels


students holding divest Harvard sign
students holding divest Harvard sign

Harvard University, one of the richest and most prestigious colleges in the United States of America, released a statement disclosing that it will end all investments in fossil fuels. According to Harvard’s self-published news update, climate change is a “consequential threat”. Harvard goes on to reference the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report. The IPCC’s sixth assessment is its latest report that outlines the physical evidence and environmental tolls of climate change.

To some extent, its apparent that Harvard recognizes the emerging need to decarbonize on an international scale. Earlier this year (2021), Harvard Management Company (HMC) announced that it had already ceased all direct investments in companies that pursued fossil fuels. Harvard admits that HMC has legacy investments that are still indirectly tied up in “private equity funds with holdings in fossil fuel industries”.

According to Harvard, HMC has no interest in renewing these legacy investments once the relevant partnerships end or are liquidated. If Harvard and HMC are in fact serious about being conducive to the clean energy transition, then they are setting a standard for other institutions and companies to follow.

Beyond HMC’s vow to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within its own operations by July 2023, its also collaborating with the Carbon Disclosure Project, Principles for Responsible Investment, and Climate Action 100+. These organizations all, in some way or another, help manage carbon and fossil fuel outputs from governments and other entities. Students, athletes, and Harvard’s sports attendees have been floating banners that read “Divest Harvard” on them. Tweets from Al Gore, to Environmental expert, Bill McKibben, highlight just how celebrated Harvard’s news about ending new investments is.


Greta Thunberg: UK Is Lying About Progress On Climate Change


Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg is a prominent 18 year old environmental activist and climate change communicator. The Swedish-born activist is generally well-known for her fearlessly forthright speeches, and her “skolstrejk för klimatet” School Strike for Climate. Greta Thunberg has just made a public video post claiming that the United Kingdom’s (UK) claims about climate change mitigation are lies. If Britain is in fact guilty of “creative carbon accounting”, then its future emissions sanctions could be too lenient.

Why Greta Thunberg Accuses UK of Lying

Greta Thunberg begins her UNICEF video post by plainly stating that “there is a lie that the UK is a world climate leader and that they have reduced their carbon emissions by 44% since 1944, or whatever”. Thunberg’s post follows an announcement, made by Boris Johnson, that the UK has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions “by about 42 percent on 1990 levels”. British politicians have a long history of proclaiming that the UK is the world’s gold standard with respect to climate change mitigation. This may be partly because the UK is the first country to enact legally permitted reduction targets for carbon emissions. The United Kingdom was also the first country to pass a net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions law (2019) to be achieved by 2050.

To paraphrase, Thunberg goes on to say that all emissions have to be included in GHG assessments; otherwise, your carbon emissions count come out to be “much nicer”. Thunberg is suggesting that the UK has not been accounting for all of its emissions, rendering its assessments ultimately inaccurate. Presenting false climate credentials is a serious charge, especially considering the emerging pertinence of climate crisis. Greta Thunberg says that if you include “aviation, shipping, outsourcing, imports of consumption and the burning of biomass, it [emissions reduction statistics] doesn’t really look that good”.

What Is Carbon Accounting?

Carbon accounting is the quantification of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions statistics that organizations use to set goals for future reduction targets. Emissions statistics help organizations track their Paris Agreement-compliance. The Paris Agreement is a binding treaty agreement between the 196 parties that volunteered to take part in 2015 at the first United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21. With COP26 (2021) around the corner, Thunberg’s announcement may serve as a warning for us all to be scrupulous of the emission data that organizations and governments report.


NetZero


Reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions is a facet of the larger goal to limit long-term climate change events like global warming, increased floods, and extreme weather events. Net-zero carbon emissions, or carbon neutrality, is the effort to reduce carbon dioxide output at least to the level estimated to be absorbed by Earth’s carbon sinks. In recent years, net-zero gained political traction and has even been endorsed by the Biden administration as a serious goal.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has recently published a detailed report regarding energy development. This report is a detailed scenario for reaching net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. According to the IEA, the key to avoiding the worst effects of climate change lies in the hands of international governments and their respective energy sectors. Nonrenewable energies are fossil fuel intensive and contribute a great deal of carbon dioxide pollution when burned. Without changes in energy sectors, net zero by 2050 is an unrealistic objective.

The “Net‐Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE)” is one scenario among many possible pathways to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The IEA posits that “the path to net‐zero emissions is narrow…”. What they mean is that all potential scenarios for reaching net zero require specific actions at specific times. As early as 2030, the NZE calls for the decline of total global energy consumption, declines in coal use, and improvements in energy efficiency.

Conclusion Drawing

The NZE authors say that “staying on it [the path to zero-emissions by 2050] requires the immediate and massive deployment of all available clean and efficient energy technologies.” The NZE emphasizes the importance of renewable energy, electricity, and hydrogen-based fuels, as they will have to eventually replace fossil fuels. Investments in new oil and gas fields must cease immediately. No new coal-fired power stations can be built to avoid further global heating and the worst effects of climate change.


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