The president talks about Yale’s steps to combat climate change.
By Kathrin Lassila | Nov/Dec 2014
Do you have a question for Yale’s president? Readers are invited to submit questions or topics to yam or Yale Alumni Magazine, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905.
The Yale Alumni Magazine regularly holds a conversation with Yale president Peter Salovey ’86PhD to provide a forum in which alumni can learn his views. (Interviews are conducted both in person and by e-mail and condensed for print.)
In this issue, Salovey answers questions about Yale’s response to a student request for divestment from fossil fuel companies that are failing to improve their climate footprint.
Y: The student group Fossil Free Yale asked Yale to divest from fossil fuel companies, a request turned down this fall by the Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility. [The Corporation is Yale’s board of
trustees.] Yale divested from companies doing business in South Africa and Sudan. Why not this?
S: The Corporation committee applies the guidelines laid out in The Ethical Investor, which was written by Yale Law School professor John Simon [’53LLB] and colleagues, and adopted by the Corporation in 1972. The committee agreed that the problem of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions represents grave danger to the future of humanity. But it concluded that this case was different from that of South Africa and Sudan. Applying principles of The Ethical Investor, it reasoned that focusing on fossil fuel suppliers ignores all of the other sectors that also cause carbon emissions. Instead of divesting, the Corporation committee urged the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility to support well-constructed shareholder resolutions on climate change at companies more broadly, and established guidance for that. And it noted that there are many things the university can do to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions and to impact climate change more generally as part of Yale’s core mission.