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Harvard’s $53 Billion Endowment Is Boosting Its Bets on ‘Climate Solutions’

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 22: A general view of Harvard University campus is seen on April 22, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard has fallen under criticism after saying it would keep the $8.6 million in stimulus funding the university received from the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

(Bloomberg) —

Harvard University’s $53 billion endowment said it’s increasing investments in “climate solutions,” while still maintaining less than 2% of assets with indirect exposure to fossil-fuel holdings.

Investments related to addressing the climate crisis were approaching 1% of the fund as of June 2021, and more than doubled from a year earlier, Harvard said Thursday in its second annual report about how the endowment is making progress on the university’s goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“We expect this trend to continue and accelerate going forward,” Harvard said in the climate report about its endowment, which is run by Harvard Management Co. 

As part of its climate strategy, the richest U.S. college has invested with Just Climate, a fund established by Generation Investment Management, where former Vice President Al Gore is chairman.

Like many companies, colleges are trying to do their part to mitigate the impact of climate change, including converting their energy systems, researching the science and changing how they invest their money, especially at the wealthiest colleges.

Harvard’s endowment returned 33.6% in the year ended June 2021, and the total jumped by $11 billion. The school declined to provide details about how the increase in value affected existing fossil fuel-related holdings. Last year’s report said those investments were 11% in fiscal 2008, and were less than 2% at the end of fiscal 2020, the same as in the current report.

Harvard’s remaining fossil-fuel exposure is held through externally managed funds, according to the report. Harvard has said it wouldn’t put money in new privately managed funds and would let existing ones finish their investment life, which can take a decade. The fund avoids direct exposure to fossil-fuel holdings.

It declined to share names of its roster of managers whose strategy is related to exploration and development in the fossil-fuel industry. The university isn’t divesting or selling any funds related to fossil fuels.

“These legacy investments are in runoff mode and will end as the partnerships are liquidated,” the school said.© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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