The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced a five-year plan of action to handle climate change, adding that it would not free its $12.4 billion endowment from fossil fuels despite pressure from students and a campus committee to do so.
Senior officials at the school report that the “action plan” was created after campus opinions pertaining to climate change were carefully noted over an entire year. A debate on the topic was then held at the school, resulting in the creation of a committee that pushed for MIT to end its connection with some the fossil fuel sector, including coal and tar sand companies. About 5% of MIT’s endowment is invested in fossil fuel companies, reports Michael McDonald for Bloomberg.
However, the MIT report maintains that although “catastrophic outcomes” could result from current energy use, the school can help by continuing to work on their relationships with fossil fuel companies.
“We choose not to divest from fossil fuel companies because we think engagement stands the greatest chance of success,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a conference call with reporters. “MIT seeks to convene key players with the goal of helping drive significant progress for the world. There is a great deal to do and we are eager to get started.”
Meanwhile, more students across the country are pushing for their schools to end their investments in fossil fuels, arguing that coal and oil companies are exacerbating climate change, and are able to do so because of the large investments from colleges. MIT leaders began to look into the issue after student group Fossil Free MIT began to push for divestment at the school last year, writes Collin Binkley for The Huffington Post.
MIT has also announced that they will perform further research into climate change that will aid in the development of technologies to help combat it. The plan seeks eight new “low-carbon energy centers” that will work with a number of companies in the creation of technology to aid solar energy, nuclear fusion, energy storage and other initiatives. Each center will need about $8 million per year in order to operate for five years, which will total over $300 million.
Maria Zuber, vice president for research, noted that past efforts have seen research done through individual projects between companies and researchers.
“But…we are realizing that these kinds of questions are sufficiently complex that just simple individual research projects are not going to be able to address them,” Zuber said.
MIT also announced plans to cut down their usage of fossil fuels on campus, as well as efforts to use more efficient energy technology within buildings on campus. The college said they would like to see a reduction of campus emissions by at least 32% by 2030, as well as the elimination of the use of fuel oil by 2019.