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Harvard Climate Justice Coalition loses again, university doesn’t have to divest from fossil fuels

The Massachusetts Appeals Court gave the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition its second legal defeat in almost as many years, The Harvard Crimson reports, as it upheld a Superior Court judge’s ruling that the group “did not have legal standing to challenge the University’s management of its investments.”

“The plaintiffs, moreover, fail to show that they have been accorded a personal right in the management or administration of Harvard’s endowment that is individual to them or distinct from the student body or public at large,” Appeals Court judge Elspeth B. Cypher wrote in the court’s ruling last week.

The HCJC had argued that Harvard’s investments in the fossil fuel industry are “a violation of the University’s charter” and, of course, contribute to global warming/climate change.

Beyond the lawsuit, activists have staged public protests calling on Harvard to divest its $35.7 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry. In April 2015, Divest Harvard, a larger student group dedicated to protesting Harvard’s financial ties to fossil fuels, blockaded a number of administrative buildings in a week-long protest dubbed “Heat Week.”

University President Drew G. Faust has said repeatedly that Harvard will not divest its endowment from fossil fuels, calling such a move unduly political for an academic institution.

Joseph E. “Ted” Hamilton, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and a member of the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition, wrote in a statement that the ruling was disappointing. The coalition is weighing its options for future litigation, Hamilton wrote.

“Today, despite the strength of our legal arguments in favor of divestment, the status quo prevailed over judicial imagination,” Hamilton wrote. “Nonetheless, we have faith that the global divestment movement and other climate legal actions will prove stronger than the intransigence of established interests.”

Anna Cowenhoven, a Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson, wrote in a statement that the University was “pleased” with the court’s ruling.

“We agree that climate change poses a serious threat to our planet, but respectfully disagree with the students who brought the lawsuit on the means by which a university should confront it,” Cowenhoven wrote.

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