Syracuse University to divest $1.18bn endowment from fossil fuels

Following a two-year student campaign, the American university has publicly committed to divestment and to investing in clean energy technologies

Syracuse University will remove its $1.18bn (£800m) endowment from direct investments in fossil fuel companies, it announced on Tuesday.

Syracuse is the biggest university in the world to have committed to remove its endowment from direct investments in coal, oil and gas companies. It aims to make additional investments in clean energy technologies such as solar, biofuels and advanced recycling.

In a statement, the university said it will “not directly invest in publicly traded companies whose primary business is extraction of fossil fuels and will direct its external investment managers to take every step possible to prohibit investments in these public companies as well”.

Keep it in the Ground campaign

Chancellor Kent Syverud said: “Syracuse has a long record of supporting responsible environmental stewardship and good corporate citizenship, and we want to continue that record. Formalising our commitment to not invest directly in fossil fuels is one more way we do that.”

Syracuse joins other universities who have made similar commitments, including Stanford, Maine, Glasgow and the New School in New York.

Bill McKibben, founder of the environmental group 350.org said: “This is one of America’s great universities. It’s a great tribute to the students who made real sacrifices to stand up to power and to an administration that can see where the future lies.”

On Wednesday, the Guardian Media Group announced it will divest from oil, coal and gas companies. Chair Neil Berkett said it was “a hard-nosed business decision” justified on moral and financial grounds.

It follows a campaign launched by the Guardian calling on the world’s two largest charitable foundations to divest from fossil fuels. It asks the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to move their money out of the top 200 fossil fuel companies and to immediately freeze any new investments. More than 150,000 people have signed the petition.

The fast-growing global divestment campaign launched by 350.org has so far persuaded more than 220 institutions to divest, including faith organisations, pension funds, philanthropic foundations and local authorities. Last year the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the British Medical Association (BMA) committed to remove any investments in fossil fuels companies.

In April, students at Harvard University will host a week of action calling on the institution to divest in a campaign supported by high profile alumni including Natalie Portman and Robert Kennedy Jr.

The decision by Syracuse University follows a two-year campus campaign. Students staged a sit-in for 18 days in November and met with the university’s administration a month ago.

Student campaigner Jonathan Schmidt said: “It is very exciting to see Syracuse taking this step, but we acknowledge that there is still a lot to do, both with ensuring that Syracuse fully divests from fossil fuels and that it takes on other social justice issues on campus.”

Fossil fuel ticker
  • This article was amended on 1 April 2015. An earlier version said that Syracuse University is the biggest in the world to divest from fossil fuel companies. It was amended to specify that it is the biggest to commit to direct divestment from oil, coal and gas companies.

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Emma Howard

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