Stanford University pledges divestment from coal companies

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Stanford University, yesterday became the wealthiest US university to pledge divestment from coal companies.

The Stanford Board of Trustees decided to bar direct investments of endowment funds in publicly traded coal companies, according to a press release.

While other universities had taken similar action already, with Stanford’s $18.7- billion endowment, the university becomes the largest institution of higher education to divest from sectors of the fossil fuel industry.

The Yale endowment was valued at $20.8 billion as of June 2013.

According to Stanford students and administrators who were interviewed the vote came on student activism, which brought the issue to the attention of the university a year ago,  associate vice president and Stanford’s director of communications Lisa Lapin said, yaledailynews reported.

According to Lapin, after the student group Fossil Free Stanford presented to Stanford’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing, the panel made a recommendation to the board of trustees.

According to Yari Greaney, a member of Fossil Free Stanford, recent weeks had seen significant progress. He added, last month, the university held a referendum, and the vast majority of students who participated in the vote supported divestment.

Stanford becomes the  largest and most prestigious school to join the national campaign for divestment of fuel stock as a result of pressure from student activists and follows  Pitzer College, San Francisco State and two community college districts in Northern California that are divesting out of concern that the burning of fossil fuels was causing environmental damage and fueling climate change.

Los Angeles Times quoted Stanford president John Hennessy, “Stanford had a responsibility as a global citizen to promote sustainability for the planet, and worked intensively to do so through research, educational programmes and campus operations.”

He added, moving away from coal in the investment context was a small, but constructive, step while work continued, at Stanford and elsewhere, to develop broadly viable sustainable energy solutions for the future.

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