Resolution 101: Cornell Investment and Divestment Strategies for a Sustainable Future

Passed:  December 11, 2013
Sponsors:  Listed below at bottom of resolution
Senate Discussions:  December 11, 2013

Faculty Senate Resolution

Cornell Investment and Divestment Strategies for a Sustainable Future

Whereas there is overwhelming evidence that the use of fossil fuels is disrupting the Earth’s climate system and acidifying its oceans, and that such disruptions will create significant challenges for Cornell University, the state of New York, the United States, and all countries for the next millennium;

And whereas Cornell has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and has made significant progress in achieving this goal;

And whereas many other colleges and universities have also committed to achieving this goal, with some having established an even more ambitious goal of eliminating fossil fuel use by 2025;

And whereas reducing the use of fossil fuels will reduce the value of investments in companies holding large fossil fuel reserves;

And whereas Cornell is a leading research and public education institution with significant impact within New York, the United States, and the world;

And whereas the Cornell Student Assembly has passed by an overwhelming majority a resolution calling upon the University to adjust its investment practices to draw further attention to the detrimental effects of fossil fuel use;

Therefore be it resolved that Cornell faculty, responsible university offices and officials should seek a more aggressive reduction in the use of fossil fuels that will achieve carbon neutrality by 2035.

Be it further resolved that Cornell investments in companies producing such fuels be reduced consistent with Cornell’s progress towards carbon neutrality so as to achieve full divestment by 2035.

Be it further resolved that this should be done by a schedule that prioritizes divestment from those companies holding the largest fossil fuel reserves;

Be it further resolved that the President of Cornell will submit an annual report to the Faculty Senate describing the progress that the University has made in becoming carbon neutral and divesting from companies holding the largest fossil fuel reserves.

Cornell Investment and Divestment Strategies for a Sustainable Future Appendix


For the purposes of this resolution,

“…those companies holding the largest fossil fuel reserves”: The list of “Top 200 listed companies by estimated carbon reserves” provided by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (1) and the list as modified in future updates. The current list is provided in the Attachment. We refer to these as the “200 LCR.”

“…a more aggressive reduction … that will achieve carbon neutrality by 2035”: A stepwise introduction of carbon-reducing technologies and offsets of the same type planned under the existing 2050 goal.

“…investments in companies… be reduced consistent with Cornell’s progress towards carbon neutrality”: The target schedule will be linear, beginning three months after passage of the resolution. Deviations from the schedule that are noted in the President’s annual report to the Faculty will be compensated for in the following year.

“…a schedule that prioritizes divestment from those companies holding the largest fossil fuel reserves”: With flexibility provided for logistical issues associated with pre-existing fixed-term investments, divestment will be ordered according the annually updated 200LCR list. Reinvestment in companies that leave or significantly move down the list due to altered practices is encouraged as a means of recognizing their beneficial efforts.


Fossil fuel reserves pose a huge threat to global warming.

  • Proven fossil fuel reserves owned by companies and governments in 2012 were equivalent to 2,860 gigatons (Gt) CO2 (2, 3).
  • The 2009 and 2010 United Nations Climate Change conferences concluded that it was necessary to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels (4, 5). The United States concurred. This conclusion was recently reinforced by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (6, 7).
  • Additional CO2 release from 2013-2050 must be limited to 565 (900) gigatons (Gt) for an 80% probability of keeping temperature rise to 2°C. It must be limited to 886 (1075) Gt for a 50% probability. [The smaller numbers are from Ref. (8); the larger from Ref. (2), which incorporates some different ]
  • In either case, no more than approximately one-fifth to one-third of proven reserves can be used prior to 2050 if the world is to remain below a 2°C rise. [Even assuming optimistic projections by the International Energy Agency of carbon capture and storage deployment (3) only increases these numbers by 12-14% (2).]
  • Fossil fuel-extracting companies continue to explore to increase reserves further. The top 200 oil and gas extracting companies (1) spent $674 billion in 2012 for such exploration. “[This] shows the intentions of the extractive sector if there are no emission limits in place.” (2)
  • “The fossil fuel industry faces a climate change Catch-22. Either it burns its existing reserves of oil, gas and coal and faces physical risks from climate change…or, when rising temperatures compel international governments to limit carbon emissions…[it faces] financial risks that will cost its stockholders billions in shareholder value.” (9)
  • Without implementation of concrete policies to dramatically curtail fossil fuel use, median warming at the end of the twenty-first century is projected to be 4.1-5.1°C (10) and sea level rise is projected to be about 1-1.7 meters (7, 11). Even a 1 meter rise would place 91% of New Orleans, 18% of Miami, and 7% of New York City underwater, even without storm surge (12, 13). The impacts on ecosystems, health, freshwater resources, and food production would also be extreme (11, 14).
  • To summarize: “If we burn all current reserves of fossil fuels, we will emit enough CO2 to create a prehistoric climate, with Earth’s temperature elevated to levels not experienced for millions of Such a world would be radically different from today, with changes in the intensity and frequency of extreme events, such as floods and droughts, higher sea levels re- drawing the coastlines of the world, and desertification re-defining where people can live. These impacts could lead to mass migrations, with the potential for widespread conflict, threatening global growth and stability—Professor Lord Stern, IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government, London School of Economics (2).


It is the responsibility of universities in general, and Cornell in particular, to take a leadership role in alerting society to knowledge-based issues. University divestment from companies holding large fossil fuel reserves is part of a national movement to draw attention to this issue.

  • “If their college’s endowment portfolio has fossil-fuel stock, then their educations are being subsidized by investments that guarantee they won’t have much of a planet on which to make use of their degree” —Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar, Middlebury
  • Divestment campaigns initiated to successfully combat South African Apartheid caused students on college campuses across the country to revise the way they thought about their endowment and how it is used. The success of these campaigns spurred a global paradigm shift in the ethics of Cornell was one of over 150 colleges and universities to divest from South Africa and has also pledged to divest from conflict minerals.
  • Cornell can become a leader of the climate justice movement by divesting from fossil fuel reserve-holding companies and supporting the paradigm shift that focuses on the need for a sustainable future. Coal, oil, and natural gas will not only contribute to the global climate crisis, but are also non-renewable and thus projected to become more costly and much more difficult to extract in the near
  • “In 2011, the University conducted a screen of its portfolio to determine its exposure to seven companies involved in producing oil in Sudan as part of an ongoing divestment program. The University subsequently sent letters to the relevant investment managers notifying them of the University’s Sudan divestment policy. For managers with investments that Cornell controls directly, the University requested that the appropriate securities be divested.” (15, 16)
  • Cornell is a member of the Ivy Plus Sustainability Working Group, which can provide a means of cooperatively leveraging our efforts with Ivy League and other universities (17).
  • Cornell’s overall self-reported progress to the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education is high– 70.7/100 (15, 18). However, its investment score in “Positive Sustainability Investments” is low– 0.41/9.00 (15, 18).


Carbon-neutrality and divestment are feasible.

  • A concrete plan demonstrating the feasibility of converting New York State’s energy infrastructure to a fossil fuel-free basis has been developed (19).
  • The historical (1997-2011) effect of divestment on return of investment (ROI) for the Russell 3000 Index, a representative whole-market index, over a 10-year rolling period has been ~ ± 0.2%, depending on the time period analyzed (20). Considering that only half of the endowment is invested in equities (21), the estimated effect of divestment, if it were instituted in full immediately, would be reduced to ~ ± 0.1%. This is much smaller than the annualized standard deviation of the Cornell Long Term Investment Pool, which was about 10% for the 5-year period ending June, 30, 2012 (21). Whatever the full annual effect, because of the linear schedule of divestment, the annualized effect over the 22 year divestment period would only be half that. Moreover, recent annual financial statements show that endowment income is only ~10% of Cornell’s operating revenues (22). The financial effect of divestment will be “in the ”

Divestment will generate a strong symbolic statement for the welfare of society at little or no cost.

  • Other large institutions such as the cities of San Francisco and Seattle have already recognized the stability of carbon-free investment portfolios and financial feasibility of For example, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to divest the $583 million that was invested in fossil fuel companies from its $16 billion pension fund (23).
  • Even excluding environmental considerations, the competitiveness of renewable energy sources is rapidly improving. “By the end of 2012, an estimated 3.2 gigawatts of solar power will have been installed—an increase of 70% over last year.” (24) Solar costs decreased by 27% in 2012 alone and solar power generated “nearly half of all new electric generating capacity in the beginning of 2013.” (25)
  • The International Energy Agency recently urged four measures to “keep the 2°C climate goal alive” that can be enacted quickly and a no net economic cost: targeted energy efficiency measures, limiting the use of inefficient coal-fired power plants, minimize methane emissions from oil and gas production, and accelerate the removal of fossil fuel subsidies. (26)
  • The value of companies holding fossil-fuel reserves will drop significantly once the market recognizes that a large fraction of these reserves are unburnable. “Put bluntly, either we’re heading for a climate catastrophe, or the carbon asset bubble will go the way of sub-prime mortgage stock. … If [the crucial 2015 UN climate negotiations are] successful, they will put a price on carbon, driving down returns on fossil-fuel investments by capping carbon emissions.” (12) “An estimated 50-80 percent of the current market value of oil, gas and coal companies is based on unburned reserves; that is resources that are still in the ground but which, if burned, would lead to catastrophic climate change and economic disaster.” (27) Such concerns recently prompted a group of 70 global investors (including the New York State and New York City Comptrollers) managing more than $3 trillion of assets to request from the world’s top fossil fuel companies detailed responses to these issues (28). Divestment from coal companies is a good place to start to avoid the risks of investment in this environmentally-challenged sector (27, 29, 30).
  • Cornell is committed to being carbon neutral by 2050 and we cannot claim to be successful if we continue to support the fossil fuel industry with our institution’s endowment (31).
  • A recent National Research Council report concluded that the US could halve by 2030 the oil used in cars and trucks compared with 2005 by improving efficiency and using alternative energy sources (32).
  • A carbon tax or other federal legislation that tilts market forces towards the reduction of fossil fuel use can drive very large reductions in fossil fuel use (33, 34). What is lacking is adequate political support that can be encouraged by university actions
  • Other countries are making committed progress: For example, the German government vowed in 2011 to reduce greenhouse-gas emission by 40% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 (35). The Danish government has set the target of “weaning Denmark off fossil fuels by 2050” (36). In May, 2013, China announced a new pilot carbon-trading program that will cover seven cities and provinces including Beijing (37). In 2012 China was the world leader for investment in renewable energy (38).
  • Divestment will not, and is not intended to, have a direct financial impact on the fossil fuel industry. But the indirect impacts of symbolic actions such as this can have a large effect on public awareness of the issues involved. This resolution, in concert with those of other universities and groups, can tip the political balance towards real progress towards averting the climate change crisis (39, 40).


An excellent, expanded review of the ethical, practical, and financial motivations for university divestment from companies holding large fossil fuel reserves is in Ref. (41).


  1. Carbon Tracker Initiative (2011) Unburnable Carbon- Are the world’s financial markets carrying a carbon bubble? content/uploads/downloads/2011/07/Unburnable-Carbon-Full-rev2.pdf
  2. Carbon Tracker Initiative (2013) Unburnable carbon 2013: wasted capital and stranded assets.
  3. International Energy Agency (2012) World Energy Outlook 2012 (Organization for Economic cooperation and Development, Paris, France).
  4. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2009) Copenhagen Climate Change Conference-December 2009.
  5. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010) Cancun Climate Change Conference-November 2010.
  6. Gillis J (2013) U.N climate panel endorses ceiling on global emissions. The New York Times 27, 2013. change-report.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  7. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013) Working group I contribution to the IPCC fifth assessment report. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Summary for policymakers. Sep. 27, 2013.
  8. Meinshausen M, et al. (2009) Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 degrees C. Nature 458(7242):1158-1162.
  9. Lubber M (2012) Fossil fuel divestment is a timely issue for investors. Forbes 17, 2012. is-timely-issue-for-investors/
  1. Sokolov AP, et al. (2009) Probabilistic Forecast for Twenty-First-Century Climate Based on Uncertainties in Emissions (Without Policy) and Climate Parameters. Journal of Climate 22(19):5175-5204.
  2. National Research Council (2010) Advancing the science of climate change. (The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.).
  3. Watkins K (2013) This gamble on carbon and the climate could trigger a new financial crisis. The Guardian August 2, 2013. timebomb
  4. Folger T (2013) Rising seas. National Geographic 224:30-59.
  5. The World Bank (2012) Turn down the heat. Why a 4oC warmer world must be avoided. . pdf
  6. Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (2013) Cornell University; PAE-17: Shareholder Advocacy. university-ny/report/2012-01-27/PAE/investment/PAE-17/
  7. Skorton DJ (2013) SKORTON: Divestment: A complicated issue for universities. The Cornell Daily Sun April 15, 2013. complicated-issue-universities
  8. Cornell University Sustainable Campus (Ivy Plus sustainability working group. group
  9. Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (2013) Cornell University.
  10. Jacobson MZ, et al. (2013) Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight. Energy Policy 57:585-601. ID=- 334253937&_sort=r&_st=13&view=c&_acct=C000228598&_version=1&_urlVersion= 0&_userid=10&md5=a9e6fbfed3f14921f5510a018403f8b9&searchtype=a
  11. Gedder P (2012) Do the investment math: Building a carbon-free portfolio. pdf
  12. Cornell University Office of University Investments (2012) Cornell University Endowment Quarterly Report for June 30, 2012 (Q4).


  1. Cornell University Division of Financial Affairs (2013) Annual Financial Statements and Supplemental Schedules.
  2. Goldenberg S (2013) San Franciso and Seattle lead US cities pulling funds from fossil fuel firms. The Guardian Apri, 25, 2013. fossil-fuels
  3. Kelly-Detwiler P (2012) Solar’s steady march: New installation figures are out. Forbes 11, 2012. march/
  4. Koronowski R (2013) How twelve states are succeeding in solar energy installation: new report. Climate Progress July 23, succeeding-in-solar-energy-installation-new-report/
  1. International Energy Agency (2013) Four energy policies can keep the 2°C goal alive.,38773,en.html
  2. Lubber M (2013) ‘Unburnable Carbon’ or no, fossil fuel companies face a climate Catch-22. Forbes June 12, 2013. fuel-companies-face-a-climate-catch-22/
  3. Pickering A & Leaton J (2013) Investors ask fossil fuel comanies to assess how business plans fare in low-carbon future. Ceres press release 24, 2013. assess-how-business-plans-fare-in-low-carbon-future
  4. Lowe L & Sanzillo T (2011) White paper: Financial risks of investments in
  5. Galland A & Lowe L (2012) White paper: Financial risks of investments in Update.
  6. President’s Sustainable Campus Committee (2013) Cornell University sustainability: Today and tomorrow. http://csc- abilityPlan.pdf
  7. Rosenthal E (2013) Life after oil and gas. The New York Times March 23, 2013.
  8. Miller J (2013) Should the U.S. implement a carbon tax? The Energy Collective April 29, 2013. carbon-tax
  9. Carbon Tax Center (2013) Pricing carbon efficiently and equitably.
  10. Smedley T (2013) Goodbye nuclear power: Germany’s renewable energy revolution. The Guardian May 20, 2013. business/nuclear-power-germany-renewable-energy
  11. The Official Website of Denmark (2013) Independent from fossil fuels by 2050. fuels-by-2050/
  12. Kaiman J (2013) China unveils details of pilot carbon-trading programme. The Guardian May 22, 2013. carbon-trading-shenzhen
  13. McCrone A, Usher E, Moslener U, Gruning C, & Sonntag-O’Brien V (2013) Global trends in renewable energy investment 2013. (Frankfurt School UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance). http://fs-unep-org/sites/default/files/attachments/gtr2013keyfindings.pdf
  14. Ansar A, Caldecott B, & Tilbury J (2013) Stranded assets and the fossil fuel divestment campaign: What does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets? , ed Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (University of Oxford).
  15. Carrington D (2013) Campaign against fossil fuels growing, says study. The Guardian 7, 2013. growing
  16. Fossil Free Yale (2013) A report on responsible energy investing. (Yale University). gtotheyaleuniversityadvisorycommitteeoninvestorresponsibility-6.pdf


Attachment: Top 200 listed companies by estimated carbon reserves

Rank Coal Companies COAL (GtCO2) Oil & Gas Companies OIL (GtCO2) GAs (GtCO2)
1 Severstal JSC 141.60 Lukoil Holdings 42.59 0.97
2 Anglo American PLC 16.75 Exxon Mobil Corp. 38.14 2.89
3 BHP Billiton 16.07 BP PLC 32.68 1.92
4 Shanxi Coking Co. Ltd. 14.98 Gazprom OAO 14.87 13.96
5 Exxaro Resources Ltd. 13.37 Chevron Corp. 20.11 1.11
6 Xstrata PLC 11.60 ConocoPhillips 18.11 1.03
7 Datang International Power Generation Co. Ltd. 11.21 Total S.A. 16.90 1.12
8 Peabody Energy Corp. 10.23 Royal Dutch Shell PLC 14.11 2.09
9 Mechel OAO 8.90 Petrobras 11.45 0.17
10 Inner Mongolia Yitai Coal Co. Ltd. 7.78 Rosneft 10.70 0.08
11 China Shenhua Energy Co. Ltd. 6.91 ENI S.p.A. 7.51 0.53
12 Coal India Ltd. 6.69 Occidental Petroleum Corp. 7.36 0.22
13 Arch Coal Inc. 5.57 Bashneft 7.25 0.01
14 Rio Tinto 5.23 SINOPEC Shandong Taishan Petroleum Co. Ltd. 6.61 0.22
15 Evraz Group S.A. 4.86 Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. 4.35 0.14
16 Public Power Corp. S.A. 4.56 Devon Energy Corp. 3.77 0.42
17 Consol Energy Inc. 4.50 Suncor Energy Inc. 3.74 0.07
18 Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. Ltd. 4.46 Apache Corp. 3.32 0.33
19 Mitsubishi Corp. 4.31 Anadarko Petroleum Corp. 3.14 0.33
20 Datong Coal Industry Co. Ltd. 4.30 Hess Corp. 3.01 0.12
21 Bumi Resources 3.28 Repsol YPF S.A. 2.75 0.29
22 United Co. Rusal PLC 3.02 BG Group PLC 2.29 0.48
23 Vale SA 3.01 Marathon Oil Corp. 2.51 0.12
24 Pingdingshan Tianan Coal Mining Co. Ltd. 2.97 Inpex Corp. 2.44 0.10
25 Tata Steel Ltd. 2.96 Statoil ASA 2.23 0.25
26 Teck Resources Ltd. 2.70 BHP Billiton 1.82 0.20
27 Banpu PCL 2.55 CNOOC Ltd. 1.85 0.09
28 Sasol Ltd. 2.51 Husky Energy Inc. 1.76 0.06
29 United Industrial Corp. Ltd. 2.48 YPF S.A. 1.68 0.12
30 Polyus Gold OAO 2.47 Novatek 1.73
31 Alpha Natural Resources Inc. 2.29 Talisman Energy Inc. 1.47 0.19
32 Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works 2.20 Pioneer Natural Resources Co. 1.50 0.11
33 Raspadskaya OJSC 2.09 SK Holdings Co. Ltd. 1.56
34 Kuzbassenergo 2.03 Petroleum Development Corp. 1.51
35 RWE AG 1.94 Cenovus Energy Inc. 1.40 0.06
36 Massey Energy Co. 1.93 Nexen Inc. 1.40 0.02
37 Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. PLC 1.93 EOG Resources Inc. 0.97 0.38
38 Wesfarmers Ltd. 1.86 Noble Energy Inc. 1.04 0.12
39 Churchill Mining PLC 1.74 OMV AG 1.02 0.06
40 Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd. 1.58 Chesapeake Energy Corp. 0.39 0.57
41 Tata Power Co. Ltd. 1.49 Penn West Petroleum Ltd. 0.91 0.03
42 Alliance Resource Partners L.P. 1.47 Oil Search Ltd. 0.91
43 NACCO Industries Inc. (Cl A) 1.33 Woodside Petroleum Ltd. 0.54 0.27
44 Novolipetsk Steel OJSC 1.30 Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. 0.78
45 New Hope Corp. Ltd. 1.30 Imperial Oil Ltd. 0.75 0.01
46 TransAlta Corp. 1.23 Murphy Oil Corp. 0.69 0.03
47 Sherritt International Corp. 1.15 Whiting Petroleum Corp. 0.70 0.01
48 PT Bayan Resources 1.14 EnCana Corp. 0.24 0.47
49 New World Resources N.V. 1.07 Plains Exploration & Production Co. 0.67 0.04
50 Mitsui & Co. Ltd. 1.03 Newfield Exploration Co. 0.53 0.11


Rank Coal Companies COAL (GtCO2) Oil & Gas Companies OIL (GtCO2) GAs (GtCO2)
51 Kazakhmys PLC 0.99 Denbury Resources Inc. 0.60 0.00
52 African Rainbow Minerals Ltd. 0.95 Continental Resources Inc. Oklahoma 0.54 0.02
53 International Coal Group Inc. 0.95 Linn Energy LLC 0.49 0.03
54 Patriot Coal Corp. 0.94 Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. 0.50 0.02
55 Aston Resources Pty Ltd. 0.93 Crescent Point Energy Corp. 0.47 0.00
56 AGL Energy 0.89 Concho Resources Inc. 0.44 0.02
57 Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc. 0.89 Quicksilver Resources Inc. 0.36 0.08
58 Cloud Peak Energy Inc. 0.85 PTT PCL 0.33 0.12
59 CLP Holdings Ltd. 0.83 Berry Petroleum Co. (Cl A) 0.40 0.03
60 Polo Resources Ltd. 0.82 Range Resources Corp. 0.27 0.11
61 Whitehaven Coal Ltd. 0.79 Energen Corp. 0.34 0.04
62 Mongolian Mining Corp. 0.75 Enerplus Corp. 0.34 0.03
63 PT Adaro Energy 0.74 Tullow Oil PLC 0.36 0.01
64 Allete Inc. 0.72 Ecopetrol S.A. 0.35 0.01
65 Optimum Coal Holdings Ltd. 0.67 Santos Ltd. 0.19 0.17
66 ArcelorMittal 0.62 SandRidge Energy Inc. 0.33 0.03
67 Coal of Africa Ltd. 0.59 Cairn Energy PLC 0.35 0.00
68 James River Coal Co. 0.57 Arc Resources Ltd. 0.30 0.03
69 Westmoreland Coal Co. 0.56 El Paso Corp. 0.23 0.10
70 Aquila Resources Ltd. 0.53 Pengrowth Energy Corp. 0.30 0.02
71 Macarthur Coal Pty Ltd. 0.53 Lundin Petroleum AB 0.31 0.00
72 FirstEnergy Corp. 0.50 Petrobank Energy & Resources Ltd. 0.31 0.00
73 Western Coal Corp. 0.49 Baytex Energy Corp. 0.30 0.00
74 Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. 0.47 Forest Oil Corp. 0.22 0.07
75 Wescoal Holdings Ltd. 0.46 Mariner Energy 0.27 0.02
76 Walter Energy, Inc. 0.45 ATP Oil & Gas Corp. 0.24 0.01
77 Huolinhe Opencut Coal Industry Corp. Ltd. 0.41 Bankers Petroleum Ltd. 0.25
78 Gujarat NRE Coke Ltd. 0.40 Soco International PLC 0.25
79 Straits Asia Resources Ltd. 0.39 Zhaikmunai L.P. 0.22 0.01
80 Capital Power Corp. 0.38 Cimarex Energy Co. 0.18 0.05
81 Fushan International Energy Group Ltd. 0.34 Questar Corp. 0.12 0.11
82 Noble Group Ltd 0.34 GDF Suez S.A. 0.17 0.05
83 Itochu Corp. 0.34 Swift Energy Co. 0.20 0.01
84 Jizhong Energy Resources Co. Ltd. 0.30 Compania Espanola de Petroleos S.A. 0.21
85 Northern Energy Corp. Ltd. 0.29 PetroBakken Energy Ltd. 0.21 0.00
86 NTPC Ltd. 0.28 Premier Oil PLC 0.18 0.03
87 Prophecy Resource Corp. 0.28 Bonavista Energy Corp 0.18 0.03
88 Mitsui Matsushima Co. Ltd. 0.28 MOL Hungarian Oil and Gas Plc 0.19 0.01
89 Fortune Minerals Ltd. 0.28 SM Energy Co. 0.17 0.02
90 Black Hills Corp. 0.27 Williams Cos. 0.18
91 Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. 0.26 EQT Corp. 0.01 0.17
92 Grupo Mexico S.A.B. de C.V. 0.26 Oil & Natural Gas Corp. Ltd. 0.18
93 Gansu Jingyuan Coal Industry & Electricity Power 0.26 Global Energy Development PLC 0.17 0.00
94 Bandanna Energy Ltd. 0.25 Oil India Ltd. 0.16 0.01
95 Irkutskenergo 0.23 Venoco Inc. 0.16 0.01
96 Alcoa Inc. 0.23 INA-Industrija Nafte 0.17
97 Homeland Energy Group Ltd. 0.23 PA Resources AB 0.16
98 Neyveli Lignite Corp. Ltd. 0.19 Ultra Petroleum Corp. 0.16
99 Zhengzhou Coal Industry & Electric Power Co. Ltd. 0.15 Resolute Energy Corp. 0.16 0.00
100 Gujarat NRE Coking Coal Ltd. 0.12 Southwestern Energy Co. 0.00 0.16
Grand Total 389.19 Grand Total 319.13 37.34


Dear Faculty Senators,

Over the past academic year, Cornell students have built a movement to divest the University’s endowment from its holdings in fossil fuels.

The divestment campaign has gained widespread student support. Nearly 1500 undergraduates have signed a petition supporting divestment. Last spring, 25 campus organizations and student leaders hand-­‐delivered  letters  to  President  Skorton  urging  the  administration  to  divest.   And  the  Student Assembly, voice of the student body, passed a resolution calling for divestment by an overwhelming margin of 22-­‐2.

The movement to divest now needs the support of Cornell faculty.

We recognize the need for fossil fuel energy in our society today. But we also recognize that continuing extraction in the face of global climate change is madness, and that an alternative path exists. Cornell’s purpose as an institution is to train future leaders, but as it stands, we are placing our money in an industry that is jeopardizing the future of the very same individuals Cornell exists to serve.

We know that divestment from fossil fuels by one school won’t singlehandedly solve the climate crisis, nor will it significantly impact the fossil fuel industry’s bottom line. But it will change the conversation. And it will align our investments with our mission.

Furthermore, we are far from alone in this campaign. Students at over 300 other universities are simultaneously calling for their schools to divest. Our combined efforts can spark institutions everywhere to consider the implications of their investments.

There is nothing static about the academic side of Cornell.  The vision to respond to an ever-­‐changing world is what makes Cornell special. Accordingly, we cannot accept inaction from our investment office.

The magnitude of the damage caused by the extraction, delivery, and use of fossil fuels demands action on an institutional level.

Divestment represents the most direct, powerful, and ‘local’ action Cornell can take to reconcile our finances with our ideals as an institution and to demand a change to fossil fuel “business as usual.”

We believe Cornell should be a leader in the divestment movement. Will you join us? Sincerely,


The origins of KyotoNOW! are traced to the successful campaign that resulted in Cornell independently agreeing to adopt the Kyoto Protocol, which holds the university to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to pre-­‐1990 levels.


Faculty Senators:

You are being asked to support the resolution Cornell Investment and Divestment Strategies for a Sustainable Future. This essay explains how the resolution evolved and why you should support it. It began as a way to engage faculty in the discussion that was started by KyotoNOW students on how Cornell should respond to climate change. Last semester the Student Assembly approved a resolution urging Cornell to divest from companies extracting carbon. The faculty resolution adds the need for Cornell to reach climate neutrality. We advocate a 2035 target date because evidence from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is that we need to reduce climate active gasses on a much faster time schedule than is occurring.

The World Bank and UN Environmental Programme have concluded that annual global CO2 emissions must decrease before 2020 if there is to be any real chance of limiting the average global temperature increase to 2°C, a barely acceptable level. Even 2035 could be too late to prevent climate disruption and ocean changes that could last centuries or millennia.

Our approach to asking Cornell to divest from companies responsible for extracting fossil carbon has evolved. We focus on the 200 companies with the largest carbon reserves according to Carbon Tracker. Yale has taken the same approach in their proposal. We linked financial divestment to our climate neutrality progress. It seems rational to us that we should stop using fossil fuels and stop investing in fossil fuel producers on about the same time schedule. The time frame and flexibility in the resolution are intended to allow time to evaluate alternative, socially responsible investment options for the endowment. We developed a detailed explanation of the two main proposals in the resolution in an appendix.

We met with the Faculty Senate Financial Policies Committee (FPC) and with A.J. Edwards, Cornell’s Chief Investment Officer. The FPC asked us to address three reasonable questions and we learned more about why Mr. Edwards did not support divestment in this and in a second meeting with Mr. Edwards. We developed a detailed response to issues raised by FPC and Mr. Edwards, which we can provide. The very short version is: 1) Half of Cornell’s endowment is invested in equities. We estimate that 9% of this half is in the energy sector, a larger set than the 200 companies affected by the Resolution, 2) the annualized return on investment would be affected by less than ±0.1% over the term of the divestment plan based on the limited information that Mr. Edwards was willing to release, and 3) research on socially responsible investing suggests that the impact of divestment on endowment performance is likely to be negligible. Our conclusion from two discussions with Mr. Edwards is that Cornell could divest if it were willing to do so. Cornell has enough control over how its funds are invested to be able to make changes.

The main Office of University Investments (OUI) concerns about divestment are: 1) investment managers prefer no restrictions when developing their investment portfolios, 2) such restrictions could limit access to important investment companies and partnerships, and 3) the energy sector has been the best performing

investment during past years and OUI predicts this to continue. We accept these as logical and responsible positions if the only goal is to maximize investment income. However, several logical flaws exist with these positions. Although OUI claims future investment performance cannot be predicted, their objection to divestment rests on predicting future investment performance. Socially responsible investing is growing as an option and performance is competitive with unrestricted investing1. Most importantly, investing in fossil fuel companies until the last kilogram or liter is extracted is totally at odds with accepting that climate change is a major global issue and that Cornell is committed to becoming a climate neutral institution.

If we speak loudly as a University to say that fossil fuel business as usual must stop, we will be heard. Leadership from Cornell will help spur action by our peer institutions, and our concerted voice can help to wake our society from its sleepwalk and raise a demand for meaningful governmental and industrial action. Our scientific articles, public presentations, and governmental advice have not spoken loudly enough. For better or worse, we need to “put our money where our mouth is.” And we can do this in two ways: becoming carbon neutral and simultaneously stopping our investment in ongoing extraction of fossil fuel reserves.

Such actions will give us the right to speak with integrity on the climate change issue. But they are not enough unless we use our voice to sound the alarm that the road we are on is leading to disaster. Energy companies should not burn all of their current fossil fuel reserves-­‐-­‐-­‐already comprising 3 to 5 times more than the amount that would lead to a 2°C warming-­‐-­‐-­‐while continuing to explore for even more, Divestment is a simple, clear way to send the message.

The students have led the way. It is time for us as faculty members to assume our responsibility and step up to the plate. The University Faculty Senate has the opportunity to support a resolution that sets a 2035 target date for climate neutrality while, on a parallel schedule, gradually divesting from the 200 companies holding the largest carbon reserves. The goal is to make a strong public statement that will draw attention to the need for society to rein in the burning of existing fossil fuel reserves. We recognize that the amount of money directly involved is relatively small and we expect that it will have no direct effect on the fossil fuel companies. While some sacrifice in pursuit of our institutional responsibility would be justified, we expect that the divestment effect on University funds will be insignificant, possibly even beneficial. The important point is that we can fulfill our ethical and academic responsibility not only to cause no harm but also to do some good.


Cornell Sustainable Future Resolution Committee2

1 See Time, Nov 25, 2013. When it pays to go green.

2 Brian Chabot, Stephen Ellner, Charles Greene, Anthony Ingraffea, Linda Nicholson, Robert Oswald, David Shalloway, Robert Strichartz


Resolution Sponsors

N’Dri Assie-­‐Lumumba, Africana Studies, Senator Dan Barbasch, Mathematics, Senator

Nina Bassuk, Horticulture, Senator Yuri Berest, Mathematics, Senator

Brian Chabot, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Senator Eric Cheyfitz, English, Senator

Stephen Ellner, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Elmer Ewing, Horticulture

Clare Fewtrell, Molecular Medicine, Senator Carl Franck, Physics, Senator

Monica Geber, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Harry Green, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Charles Greene, Earth and Atmospheric Science Drew Harvell, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Martin Hatch, Music, Senator (alternate)

Thomas Hirschl, Development Sociology, Senator (alternate) Harold Hodes, Philosophy, Senator (alternate)

Robert Howarth, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Anthony Ingraffea, Civil & Environmental Eng

Andre Kessler, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Senator Aija Leiponen, Dyson School, Senator

Ellis Loew, Biomedical Sciences, Senator Richard Miller, Philosophy, Senator

Linda Nicholson, Molecular Biology & Genetics, Senator Jeff Niederdeppe, Communication, Senator

Robert Oswald, Molecular Medicine

William Philpot, Civil & Environmental Eng, Senator Lars Rudstam, Natural Resources, Senator

Allison Power, Science and Technology Studies, Senator Elizabeth Sanders, Government, Senator

Chris Schaffer, Biomedical Engineering, Senator Robert Seem, Plant Pathology, Senator

David Shalloway, Molecular Biology & Genetics Robert Strichartz, Mathematics

Charles Van Loan, Computer Science, Senator

Greg Weiland, Molecular Medicine, Senator (alternate)

David Wilson, Molecular Biology & Genetics, Senator (alternate) Wendy Wolford, Developmental Sociology, Senator


Response To Faculty Senate Resolution:

Cornell Investment and Divestment Strategies for a Sustainable Future
by David J. Skorton, President Cornell University  February 11, 2014

The Faculty Senate Resolution on Cornell Investment and Divestment Strategies for a Sustainable Future, passed in December 2013, as well as the Student Assembly Resolution 32, “Toward a Responsible Endowment” to which I responded last spring, have generated considerable discussion on our campus and a broad spectrum of opinion on the issues raised. In this response to the Faculty Senate’s resolution, I offer some general comments on the role of the university in environmental sustainability, address the specifics of the Faculty Senate’s resolution, and offer a way forward.

As I said at the President’s Sustainable Campus Committee Summit last November, I believe the two biggest challenges facing our world are inequality and environmental sustainability. Therefore, I welcome the faculty’s passion on this issue and agree with the Faculty Senate resolution on the need to accelerate the pace of our efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. I accept and endorse the Faculty Senate’s recommendation that we seek a more aggressive reduction in the use of fossil fuels that could bring us to carbon neutrality by 2035. I say “could” because it will require a set of decisions and changes in behavior and priorities throughout the campus to achieve this more aggressive goal.

Accelerating our progress toward carbon neutrality may require further investment in capital projects. Among investments already made are

$82 million (in 2008 dollars) for the combined heat and power plant, $58.5 million (in 1999 dollars) for our Lake Source Cooling project, and $43 million of a $46 million commitment toward upgrades to existing buildings. Whether we will be able to invest more will depend upon finding meaningful opportunities and the resources to invest, but I believe we should move in that direction.

Becoming carbon neutral within the next 20 years will also require new technological developments; no amount of capital expenditure will get us there solely based on current technology. For that reason I see a need to focus more of our teaching, applied research and demonstration projects in areas such as enhanced geothermal energy, carbon sequestration,bioenergy, climate literacy, wind and solar energy, climate adaptation, green building and other areas that can move us toward environmental sustainability.

I share and support the traditional understanding that faculty members should appropriately enjoy considerable autonomy in what we teach and in the areas we choose for our research and public engagement. Nonetheless, I believe I need to use my bully pulpit as president to exhort my faculty colleagues, where appropriate, to accelerate our progress toward carbon neutrality by expending more effort to address these critical issues.

As one example, our Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF) is doing this with remarkable success by focusing on three critical and interrelated areas of sustainability: energy, environment and economic development. At last count, more than 360 faculty members from 11 Cornell schools and colleges and 66 departments were contributing to the efforts of ACSF as faculty fellows. ACSF offers a successful model for convening and connecting faculty, seeding projects and assisting in the development of connections with external partner organizations.

In addition to such organizational approaches, each of us will have to adjust our personal behavior, from our expectations around the lighting and temperature of our offices, laboratories, studios, and buildings to our equipment and transportation choices, in order to use less energy.

With respect to the second part of the Faculty Senate resolution, concerning the divestment of our endowment funds from fossil fuel companies, I do not think divestment will accelerate our progress toward carbon neutrality. I understand, however, that there are many different opinions on the effects that divestment might have on our society’s carbon emissions and on the earnings of our endowment, and I do not believe that we can precisely predict what the effects of divestment would be on either. Given the delicate status of our university’s budget, which is balanced, but by a very fine margin, I am unwilling to recommend divestment from fossil fuel companies to our chief investment officer or to the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees.

Our endowment has been built up over generations to advance the academic mission of the university, and we must resist, in almost all cases, the temptation to manage these precious funds to further social or political causes, no matter how worthy. I believe divestment in this case will be predominantly a symbolic gesture. Symbolism and thought leadership

certainly have an important place in all universities. However, the potential financial risks to our campus do not support divestment at this time. The endowment’s central purpose must continue to be to provide resources essential to furthering our academic goals as well as the affordability and accessibility of our university.

Within the risk and return parameters for the endowment established by the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees, however, and with my strong encouragement, our Investment Office continues to seek out investments in alternative energy strategies. While this has been a challenging area for investments, given the large number of bankruptcies across a variety of alternative energy-related industries, we currently have $71 million invested in alternative energy/sustainable investments, up from approximately $60 million last spring, and we have another $5 million of additional capital available for future investment within existing relationships. We consider portfolio managers for the endowment that participate in investments related to renewable energy, technological advances in the area of climate change and remediation, and appropriate stewardship of natural resources.

The Investment Office is also weighing the potential for direct investment in both solar and wind projects (and possibly hydroelectric

power), some in conjunction with Cornell Facilities Services. While the existence of government subsidies presents challenges for tax exempt investors considering an investment in these renewable energies, we are constantly evaluating all of the options available to us. In addition, we are currently in discussion with our timber portfolio manager about a possible transition for a portion of the acreage in our portfolio from a managed forest to a managed forest that would be set aside as a permanent natural habitat. Upwards of 200,000 acres could be set aside in this way, contributing to the carbon sequestration aspect of our timber investments.

These are just two examples of directions we will continue to pursue vigorously.

To help us move forward toward our shared goal of environmental sustainability, I have asked Dean of University Faculty Joseph Burns and Vice President for Facilities Services KyuJung Whang to establish a faculty/administrative working group to develop specific strategies to accelerate our progress toward carbon neutrality. I have asked for this working group to report to the campus by June 1. In addition, as requested in the resolution, I will submit a report to the Faculty Senate on an annual basis describing the progress that the university has made toward becoming carbon neutral.

Going forward, this effort will need to engage all of us—faculty, students, staff, and my administration. By embracing the challenges we face and by tapping into Cornell’s vast potential for research, education, and public engagement, we can not only strive to achieve neutrality in the university’s carbon emissions by 2035, but also position the university as a global knowledge resource for this generation and generations to come. By working together to find effective solutions, we can and will succeed.



January 29, 2016


DIVESTMENT REQUESTS: Voted, upon recommendation of the Executive Committee, that the Board of Trustees adopt guidelines that will assist the President and the Board in making divestment decisions regarding social responsibility, and campus groups in advancing divestment recommendations. The guidelines are set forth below and are entitled “Standard and Process for Board of Trustees Consideration of Divestment Recommendations.”

 “Standard and Process for Board of Trustees Consideration of Divestment



The following guidelines are designed to assist the President and the Board in making decisions regarding social responsibility. The standard and process set forth below shall supersede any previously adopted administrative protocols or procedures on this subject.

I.                    Standard to Guide Divestment Consideration

Divestment should be considered only when a company’s actions or inactions are “morally reprehensible” (i.e., deserving of condemnation because of the injurious impact that the actions or inactions of a company are found to have on consumers, employees, or other persons, or which perpetuate social harms to individuals by the deprivation of health, safety, basic freedom, or human rights. Morally reprehensible activities include apartheid, genocide, human trafficking, slavery, and systemic cruelty to children, including violations of child labor laws).

In addition, divestment should only be considered when:

  • The divestment will likely have a meaningful impact toward correcting the specified harm, and will not result in disproportionate offsetting negative societal consequences; or
  • The company in question contributes to harm so grave that it would be inconsistent with the goals and principles of the


  • NOTE: Many activities that cause social harm do not descend to the level of being morally reprehensible; they are legal, often widely practiced, and in most cases pursued by members of the Cornell Community. Moreover, other avenues besides divestiture may be more effective. Universities best serve their educational mission by research, teaching, and outreach on key policy issues, including heightened educational initiatives; and appropriate professional and scholarly consultation by faculty and students with regulatory agencies, corporations, or other


II.                 Process for Review of Divestment Recommendations


  1. In the event that the Board considers divestment based on social responsibility, irrespective of a constituent governance body resolution, the procedure is as follows:


  1. The Executive Committee, with input from the Investment Committee and the President, deliberates on whether the criteria for divestment are met, then makes a recommendation to the full Board of
  2. The full Board of Trustees considers the resolution, then votes on whether to divest. This decision is


  1. In the event that a constituent governance group(s) passes a relevant resolution proposing divestment, the recommended procedure is as follows:


  1. The resolution is submitted to the President, with statement of position and reasoning. The reasoning must clearly document the nature and magnitude of the policies or practices of the company or companies that are asserted to cause a substantial
  2. The process will proceed only:
    1. if the President agrees with the resolution; or
    2. if the resolution is supported and passed by the Employee, Graduate and Professional Student, Undergraduate Student, and University Assemblies, and the Faculty Senate governance groups or their successor bodies (with or without the President’s agreement).
  3. If the resolution proceeds, it is submitted to the Executive and Investment committees of the Board of Trustees, with statement of position and Notice of the submission is given to the full Board.
  4. The Executive Committee, with input from the Investment Committee and the President, deliberates on whether the criteria for divestment are met, then makes a recommendation to the full Board of
  5. The full Board of Trustees considers the resolution, then votes on whether to divest. This decision is



Cornell’s five shared governance groups recommend that the University divest from the top 100 fossil fuel companies’ energy-related investments in its Long Term Investments (LTI). This recommendation reflects the deep wish on the part of many members of the Cornell community that the University exercise prudent environmental stewardship.

Voted, upon recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Board of Trustees adopted the following resolution:

WHEREAS, Cornell University, consistent with its mission, is committed to providing a fair and unbiased forum for scholarship, research and teaching, rather   than institutional advocacy; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Trustees declared in its 1971 Investment Policy Statement that “the fundamental objective of Cornell University’s investment policy is to strengthen Cornell’s financial ability to fulfill its basic function as an educational institution” and that “responsibility for accepting, preserving and managing the funds entrusted to Cornell rests by law with its Board of Trustees”; and

WHEREAS, the Board further stated in its 1971 Investment Policy Statement that it welcomed points of view relating to investment matters from members of the University community which will be given thorough consideration by those charged with the responsibility for financial decisions; and

WHEREAS, there has been only one occasion when the University decided to totally divest certain investments: in 2006, when the University divested from certain companies doing business in Sudan because of that country’s illegal and morally reprehensible engagement in genocide; and

WHEREAS, in order to guide the President and the Board in making divestment decisions regarding social responsibility, and campus groups in advancing divestment recommendations, the Board of Trustees adopted at its January 2016 meeting guidelines entitled “Standard and Process for Board of Trustees Consideration of Divestment Recommendations” and

WHEREAS, Cornell’s five constituent governance groups have jointly recommended that the University divest from the top 100 fossil fuel companies’ energy- related investments in its Long Term Investments pool (LTI), such recommendation reflecting the deep wish on the part of many members of the Cornell community that the University exercise prudent environmental stewardship; and

WHEREAS, Cornell University and every member of the Cornell community has some direct or indirect connection with energy companies, including: gifts from energy companies and from alumni who work for them; enhanced endowment payouts due to investments in energy companies; University units seeking these companies’ advice on sustainability, scientists working with them in research, and students seeking jobs with them; and

WHEREAS, Cornell University, recognizing the urgent need for action to protect the environment, has taken a leading role and continues to take proactive steps toward that end, including, among other very noteworthy endeavors: engineering and employing Lake Source Cooling; changing the University’s primary fuel source from coal to natural gas; installing a solar farm; raising construction standards resulting in 17 LEED awards; and purchasing power from a wind farm; and

WHEREAS, the Board’s Investment Committee has long sought to be mindful of the issues surrounding sustainability and climate involving the LTI, having carefully considered portfolio managers for the LTI who participate in investments related to renewable energy, technological advances in the area of climate change and remediation, and appropriate husbanding of natural resources; and

WHEREAS, in applying the divestment standard of “morally reprehensible” as defined in the “Standard and Process for Board of Trustees Consideration of Divestment Recommendations”, energy companies with activities related to oil and natural gas do not meet this divestment standard because: the activities specified in the constituent governance groups’ shared resolution are legal, widely practiced, and pursued by members of the Cornell Community, and are practiced by an entire industry, rather than solely a specific company. Moreover, divestiture will not likely have a positive impact toward correcting the perceived harm, and divestiture may have unacceptable negative consequences on the endowment;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that in accordance with the process set forth in the “Standard and Process for Board of Trustees Consideration of

Divestment Recommendations”, the Board of Trustees has determined that the University will refrain, at this time, from divestment from any fossil fuel energy investments; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the University’s Chief Investment Officer is instructed to continue to actively seek investment managers with alternative energy investment strategies that meet the return and risk parameters as defined by the Investment Policy; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the Board of Trustees expresses its deep appreciation to the five constituent governance groups for their thoughtful advice on this important environmental issue.

Term 2013-2014
Senate University Faculty Senate
Status Adopted 12/11/13
Abstract  Cornell Investment and Divestment Strategies for a Sustainable Future
Resolution File view
Title Cornell Investment and Divestment Strategies for a Sustainable Future
Sponsors N’Dri Assie-Lumumba, D. Barbasch, N. Bassuk, Y. Berest, B. Chabot, E. Cheyfitz, S. Ellner, E. Ewing, C. Fewtrell, C. Franck, M. Geber, H. Green, C. Greene, D. Harvell, M. Hatch,  T. Hirschl, H. Hodes, R. Howarth, A. Ingraffea, A. Kessler, A. Leiponen, E. Loew, R. Miller, L. Nicholson, J. Niederdeppe, R. Oswald, W. Philpot, L. Rudstam, A. Power, E. Sanders, C. Schaffer, R. Seem, D. Shalloway, R. Strichartz, C. Van Loan, G. Weiland, D. Wilson & W. Wolford
Reviewing Committee University Faculty Committee (UFC)

Resolution History

Date Action View Details
12/11/13 Adopted by University Faculty Senate
12/12/13 Resolution referred to President
2/11/14 Response from President David Skorton
1/29/16 Board of Trustees Response – Includes new protocols for an proposals that the University Divest itself)
Print Friendly, PDF & Email