Brown University sold 90% of its investments in companies that extract fossil fuels and is liquidating the remainder, President Christina H. Paxson said in a letter to the campus community Wednesday.
The president's letter updates the school's efforts to confront climate change, which "may be the single most pressing problem that society faces today," Ms. Paxson wrote.
Scientific evidence is clear that "without a rapid transition away from fossil fuels on a global scale, it will become impossible to avert disastrous consequences for humans and the natural environment worldwide," she said.
In addition to divesting its $4.2 billion endowment from fossil fuels and addressing the global climate crisis through teaching and research, "Brown is playing a leadership role in improving Rhode Island's resilience to climate change" and encouraging other investors to reduce greenhouse gases and develop sustainable technologies, Ms. Paxson said.
Brown's investment office has applied ESG standards in all investment decisions for the past five years and encourages external fund managers to strengthen their ESG criteria. "We plan to make these standards more rigorous over time," Ms. Paxson said.
In February 2019, Brown University said it would cut its campus greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2025 and aim for net-zero emission by 2040. The plan developed by a facilities management team and several faculty experts includes having two wind turbines in Texas operational this spring, and a solar farm in Rhode Island slated to start producing power for Brown in 2022. The two projects are expected to produce enough renewably generated electricity to offset all current on-campus electricity use.
Ms. Paxson said Brown is also making progress on plans to shift a natural gas central heating plant to a sustainable power source. Two near-term options that will be decided by the end of 2020 are converting the plant to burn recycled biofuel or offsetting natural gas by investing in a renewable natural gas project.
The wind and solar projects and the switch to biofuel or renewable natural gas will make the 2025 goal possible, Ms. Paxson said in the letter.