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Barnard College Votes to Divest Endowment Money From Climate Change Deniers

Barnard College Votes to Divest Endowment Money From Climate Change Deniers

The Board of Trustees of New York's Barnard College, a women's college affiliated with Columbia University, recently voted to divest from energy companies that deny climate change who are currently within the college's $286 million endowment.

Barnard students have pressed the college to establish a broad divestment pledge, a movement that in the last five years has grown to campuses across the country. Last year, a committee of Barnard trustees, faculty, and students endorsed a proposal that would divest from only fossil fuel companies that seek to deny climate science or thwart efforts to mitigate the impact of global warming.

Since approving the measure, Barnard College, who currently retains $18 million of investments in fossil fuel companies, must now decide which companies to blacklist and how to implement the change with their money manager, Investure, who currently pools its client's assets instead of tailoring individual portfolios.

Barnard College is no stranger to establishing sustainable energy management solutions. They were one of the first colleges and universities to participate and also succeed in meeting Mayor Bloomberg's first carbon challenge PlaNYC 2030. Since the first challenge, Barnard has signed up to reach a second target under Governor Cuomo's "Rev Challenge."

Both of these initiatives focus on meeting measurable reductions in the college's carbon footprint, while also setting additional comprehensive and community goals for the future. In conjunction with participating in these challenges, Barnard enlisted the assistance of energy consulting firm Gotham 360, led by Founder Jennifer Kearney, and the Tripartite Committee. The combined efforts with the Task Force enabled Barnard to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the college's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The assessment focused on standards set by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which include measuring direct emissions from owned or controlled sources; measuring indirect emissions generated from purchased electricity; and measuring other indirect emissions, which includes everything from daily commutes, school-sponsored travel, and trash disposal.

Unlike other colleges, Barnard chose to take a 360-degree view of all of the activities that contribute to the college's carbon footprint instead of focusing on measuring direct emissions and indirect emissions solely from electricity, two emissions that are easily gauged. With the help of the energy consulting team of Gotham 360, Barnard found that nearly two-thirds of the college's carbon impact originates in indirect emissions beyond the purchasing of electricity.

The eye opening report gave the college's Task Force the ability to establish a baseline and an understanding of how campus activities contribute to its carbon footprint. The information presented by the energy consulting team also gave the college the ability to craft a truly unique response that will address 360-degrees of emissions.

As with Barnard College, the ability to partner with energy management professionals, such as Gotham 360, allows institutions to audit their energy consumption and establish sustainable energy solutions to decrease use and cost.

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