HARVARD LAW SCHOOL
DIVEST HARVARD REFERENDUM
ARGUMENTS FOR & AGAINST

QUESTION: Do you call upon Harvard University to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies and divest from direct holdings in the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies that own the majority of fossil fuel reserves within five years?

STANDARD ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR:

• It is morally wrong and intellectually inconsistent for Harvard to profit by investing in companies that significantly contribute to ecological devastation and humanitarian crises linked to global warming.

• Fossil fuel divestment at Harvard would force a national conversation about global warming, lead other institutions to divest, and encourage Congress to act. Harvard has used divestment in the past to speak out against tobacco (1990), apartheid (1986), and genocide in Sudan (2005).

• Divestment from direct holdings in the fossil fuel industry would have a “minimal impact” on our endowment, as confirmed by Harvard Corporation Fellow Robert Reischauer. (Meeting on April 9, 2013.)

STANDARD ARGUMENTS AGAINST:

• It is hypocritical to divest from the fossil fuel industry while Harvard continues to run on fossil fuel energy; divestment will not reduce the amount of fossil fuels that Harvard uses or curtail global warming.

• Fossil fuel companies are among the largest and most profitable in the world. Divesting Harvard’s endowment will not hurt these companies, change their behavior, or prompt Congressional action.

• Harvard University’s endowment should be used to maximize profit in order to fund research, financial aid, and other academic programming—not to weigh in on contested political issues outside the scope of Harvard’s primary mission of education.

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Copyright The President & Fellows of Harvard College.