On October 21, MIT released “A Plan for Action on Climate Change,” a five-year road map outlining steps the Institute will take—and announced that it will not divest from the fossil-fuel companies in its investment portfolio.
Citing “overwhelming” scientific evidence for climate change, the plan states that the problem “demands society’s urgent attention” and that “the world needs an aggressive but pragmatic transition plan to achieve a zero-carbon global energy system.” MIT will fund further research on the process of climate change as well as eight new centers for research on low-carbon energy technologies. It also pledged to use the campus as a “test bed” for carbon reduction ideas while working to lower campus emissions at least 32 percent by 2030, matching a U.S. government goal.
MIT hopes to attract industry partnerships producing at least $8 million in new annual funding for each of the eight research centers, totaling over $300 million over five years. The centers will focus on solar energy; energy storage; materials; carbon capture, use, and sequestration; nuclear energy; nuclear fusion; energy bioscience; and the electrical grid.
FossilFreeMIT, a student-led group founded in 2013, has collected over 3,400 signatures from MIT community members favoring divestment from about 200 companies in MIT’s portfolio. The report credits the group with helping to bring climate change “to the top of MIT’s institutional agenda” but states that the Institute will instead pursue a policy of “engagement” with industry to help make progress on climate change. To protest the decision not to divest, members of the group staged a sit-in outside the president’s office that was still under way as of mid December.