Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said Harvard University should divest its $39 billion endowment of fossil fuel investments.
"Fossil fuels can no longer compete," Mr. Gore, who graduated from Harvard 50 years ago, said Wednesday in comments to students at the school's 2019 Class Day ceremony. "The largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, in Norway, financed completely by oil and gas revenues, has started divesting from fossil fuels, and so should Harvard University."
Mr. Gore, who chairs sustainable investment firm Generation Investment Management, said holding onto fossil fuels is a "moral issue" and he compared them to the school's past decisions to divest tobacco- and some Apartheid-related stocks. "Why would Harvard University continue to support with its finances an industry like this that is in the process of threatening the future of humanity?" Mr. Gore asked.
U.S. universities, and Harvard in particular, have faced increasing calls from students to divest holdings in fossil fuel companies. Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said earlier this year that the university would maintain its stance against divestment, reiterating that its investment decisions wouldn't be made to encourage social change.
"The endowment exists to support the institution, to support our students and to support our faculty," Mr. Bacow said, according to a report by the Harvard Crimson.
Harvard Management Co., which oversees the endowment, said in 2017 it would it take into consideration the environmental impact of some its investments, but that hasn't been enough for students. Student groups earlier this week called on alumni to suspend donations to the university until it has divested fossil fuels.