Columbia University divests from coal

Columbia University will divest from companies that derive more than 35 per cent of their revenue from thermal coal production in an effort to accelerate society’s move away from coal-fired electricity.

Columbia University in New York is one of the wealthiest universities in the US with assets of over USD 9 billion. In the future, this money will no longer be invested in companies deriving more than 35 per cent of their income from thermal coal production, as the elite university announced earlier this week.

The university’s Advisory Committee on Social Responsible Investing (ACSRI) recommended the coal divestment on the grounds that the continued use of coal – which has the highest level of CO2 emissions per unit of energy – can no longer be justified given that there already exist several cleaner alternative energy sources for electricity production, “including but not limited to natural gas, solar and wind”.

The decision to adopt ACSRI’s recommendation was not taken lightly.

“Divestment of this type is an action the University takes only rarely and in service of our highest values,” said Columbia University’s president Lee C. Bollinger.

With its decision to divest, the university hopes to mobilise greater public interest in climate change. “We must do all we can as an institution to set a responsible course in this urgent area,” Bollinger explained.

In addition to the coal divestment, the university will continue to strengthen efforts to reduce its own carbon footprint and will now participate in the CDP’s Climate Change Program, which aims to reduce companies’ greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change risk.


Image credit: InSapphoWeTrust, flickr/Creative Commons

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