Cornell Won’t Put Money in New Private Fossil Fuel Investments


(Bloomberg) -- Cornell University’s endowment is putting a moratorium on new private investments focused on fossil fuels and plans to expand its holdings in alternative-energy technologies.

The school’s board of trustees voted Friday to make the change to the $6.9 billion endowment after a recommendation by its investment committee, according to a statement on the Ithaca, New York, school’s website.

“There’s a growing recognition that we’re transitioning away from fossil fuels globally, and the economic competitiveness of renewable energy sources is rising,” said Ken Miranda, the university’s chief investment officer. “We’re doing the right thing from an investment perspective, particularly for an endowment with a perpetual time horizon.”

U.S. colleges are stepping up their efforts to address investments in fossil fuels. While some of the richest schools say they won’t divest from their existing holdings, more are committing to refrain from new investments in the sector.

Yale University in February said it isn’t divesting from fossil fuels but has built an awareness of climate risk into its standard practices. In March, fellow Ivy League member Brown University said the endowment sold 90% of its investments in companies that extract fossil fuels and the remainder of those holdings are being liquidated as it becomes possible to do so.

Cornell has shifted its position on fossil fuels. In 2016 the school rejected divestment, saying it would consider selling assets “only when the company’s actions or inactions are morally reprehensible.”

The moratorium announced today applies to new private equity and bonds focused on fossil fuels, which makes up about only 4.2% of Cornell’s long-term investments, Miranda said. That percentage is likely to dwindle to zero over time as existing investments mature and assets are redeployed into areas including renewables.

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