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Yale fights climate change, but doesn’t divest.

In August, President Peter Salovey ’86PhD announced several new initiatives in the name of sustainability and addressing climate change. He also announced that Yale had decided against a move broadly supported by students—divestment of fossil fuel assets from the university’s endowment.

The initiatives include $21 million for energy conservation and greenhouse gas reduction, 350,000 square feet of solar panels on the West Campus, and a task force to examine the efficacy of an internal carbon-pricing mechanism for units of the university. (For more, see Q&A: Peter Salovey.) Salovey said Yale will also support “reasonable” shareholder resolutions on climate change, and Chief Investment Officer David Swensen ’80PhD has directed Yale’s external endowment managers to consider the effect of climate change when making investment decisions.

But the decision not to divest Yale’s assets in fossil fuel companies—which was made by the Committee on Investor Responsibility, part of Yale’s board of trustees—was disappointing to student activists, who cited a 2013 referendum in which more than eight in ten students supported divestment. Salovey says that the committee decided that fossil fuel divestment “ignores all of the other sectors of the economy that contribute to the problem” and that “there are many things the university can do to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions and to impact climate change more generally.”

Divestment proponents say that misses the point. “In the past, it’s been proven that divestment leads to a conversation, which leads to an examination of societal practices, and to stigmatization,” says Mitch Barrow ’16, project manager for Fossil Free Yale.

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