Georgetown to divest endowment from coal companies

Georgetown to divest endowment from coal companies
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Georgetown University's board of directors approved a plan Thursday to divest its endowment from coal companies.

The Washington, D.C., university said its endowment — worth $1.5 billion — does not include many investments in coal to begin with, but that divesting now, and taking steps to prevent future investments, aligns with the school's Jesuit background.

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“The work of understanding and responding to the demands of climate change is urgent and complex," Georgetown President John DeGioia said in a statement. "It requires our most serious attention. As a university community, we can best respond to this evolving and ongoing challenge when we acknowledge the tensions embedded in this work — and the variety of perspectives that are present in this moment."

Georgetown University Fossil Free, a student-led campaign to convince the school to divest its fossil fuel holdings, said the new policy doesn't go far enough. The group had hoped Georgetown would end its investments in the 200 companies with the largest oil, gas and coal reserves, and it said the school's decision to divest only from companies directly tied to coal "is not a victory."

"If the Board had made their decision for principally moral reasons, then they would have supported full divestment from both direct and commingled funds from coal, oil and gas companies," the group said in a statement. 

"If Georgetown understands coal investments to be immoral, the only reason not to divest from commingled funds which include coal would be because doing so is more logistically difficult than divesting from direct investments, a meager excuse considering the urgency of the climate crisis."

A spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America said the group would have preferred Georgetown reject any level of divestment — as Santa Clara University did on Monday — but he said "no honest activist will consider this a victory." 

“I think what you have is a school that took a really hard look at the divestment question and ended up concluding, like the vast majority of other institutions being solicited by activists, that divesting from oil and gas is a really bad idea," Matt Dempsey said.