Cornell University's Board of Trustees has announced a vote that will institute a moratorium on "new private investments focused on fossil fuels." The vote came after the Investment Committee made their own decision to implement the moratorium.
Additionally, the school will look to increase its investments in "alternative energy technologies." There is no announced timetable for the moratorium, which theoretically means it could be permanent.
According to the Cornell Chronicle, the new ban comes from an assessment of Cornell's current endowment investment portfolio, which amounts to $6.9 billion. The short-term future for fossil fuel industries and climate change were also factors.
Ken Miranda, Cornell's chief investment officer, said that the school has 4.2 percent of its total long-term investments in fossil fuel entities, and now said that number is "expected to dwindle to zero over time," with some of the money being rededicated to renewable energy.
“There’s a growing recognition that we’re transitioning away from fossil fuels globally, and the economic competitiveness of renewable energy sources is rising,” Miranda said. “We’re doing the right thing from an investment perspective, particularly for an endowment with a perpetual time horizon.”
The Investment Committee is further directing the endowment to search for energy-efficient investments specifically, that "offer competitive risk-adjusted rates of return and which help in a transition to a more sustainable future, both nationally and globally," according to the Chronicle. Miranda said the Investment Committee had already been guiding the endowment toward renewable energy, but that the strategy is now codified.
There's been momentum toward this decision for some time, particularly from the student body. Protests have regularly popped up calling for divestment, most notably earlier this year at a protest in downtown Ithaca that also called on Chase Bank to stop its fossil fuel funding. According to the Chronicle, bodies representing staff, faculty, grad and undergrad students all passed resolutions asking for divestment from fossil fuels.