Just this month, amid news of historic Pakistan floods and a deadly Atlantic hurricane seasoninternal memos and emails from oil and gas companies exposed industry’s blatant disregard for stated commitments to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions. An email from a Shell employee specifically stated that Shell’s net zero commitment “has nothing to do with our business plans”. The insistence of oil and gas companies to pursue the global warming fuels business, with relatively low spending on renewable energy, contradicts the International Energy Agencywarns that we must stop investing in new fossil fuel supply projects immediately. These companies are in bad faith when they claim to support an energy transition, including when they cite their university partnerships as proof of their good intentions.
Last spring, we argued that wealthy universities can and should lead the charge in embracing fossil-free research. Well now we have the $200 million endowment of the Harvard Salata Institute and $1.1 billion endowment of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability – as well as Princeton’s plan to create an alternative fund for climate and energy research – as evidence that universities box find different ways to park their money or solicit new funds. So now there is no excuse for other elite institutions. For any well-resourced university that continues to undermine climate research by accepting oil and gas money, a clear question arises: Which side are you on?
Ultimately, this is a society-wide problem. All universities and research institutes need increased access to ethical and transparent climate finance streams. This is why we need more government support and leadership from these better-resourced universities, which have the unique responsibility of blocking the access of oil and gas companies to the production of knowledge on the climate.