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Harvard endowment has carbon emissions ‘equivalent to Jamaica’ – analysis

Report from South Pole Carbon amid student protests

The $36bn (€33.7bn) Harvard University endowment has carbon emissions equivalent to Jamaica, according to an analysis by research firm South Pole Group commissioned by Divest Harvard and campaign group 350.org.

South Pole Group, which has done climate impact analysis on behalf of many institutional investors, including Sweden’s national pension funds AP4 and AP6, looked at
Harvard’s public equity holdings, or around 3% of the whole endowment, and extrapolated for the remaining 97%.

It comes as campaigners at Harvard University are undertaking a week of action on its campus to urge the 379-year-old US institution to divest from fossil fuels.

Speaking to Responsible Investor, Dr Maximilian Horster, partner at South Pole Group, said that his company was agnostic to the aims of 350.org, but he hoped the new report would encourage the Harvard Management Company (HMC) to approach its investments from the angle of climate change. “As far as we know HMC hasn’t done any analysis in the wake of increasing investors signing up to initiatives such as the Montreal Carbon Pledge”.

The research found that the largest contributor to Harvard’s portfolio’s greenhouse gas emission is Mexican building materials multinational Cemex, responsible for 41.9% overall.The analysis also shows that Harvard’s endowment is directly invested in fossil fuel related companies such as Petrobas and Anadarko petroleum. Further, through its investments in funds, Harvard invests in some of the largest emitters in the world, like NTPC Power, which generates more than 90% of its electricity from coal and supplies 18% of the electricity grid in India.

Karthik Ganapathy, US communications manager for 350.org, said: “South Pole Group’s report shows that this administration’s intransigence has worsened climate change, full stop. We encourage senior Harvard management to read the findings of this report, listen to the overwhelming majority of the student body in favor of divestment, and begin the process of cutting the university’s ties to fossil fuels.”

South Pole is not the only one this week to release an analysis of Harvard’s carbon footprint. US-based Fossil Free Indexes has also examined the Ivy League university’s direct holdings and finds the endowment finances 2.3 million tons of potential C02 emissions related to the reserves of fossil fuel companies.

It calls on Harvard to show leadership and measure and disclose the reserves-based emissions and overall carbon footprint of its endowment. It highlights that it was the first US university endowment to sign up to the UN-backed PRI and is a signatory to the Carbon Disclosure Project. The Harvard Management Company did not respond to enquiries.