Harvard announced Tuesday it would create a new vice provost position to oversee its efforts related to climate change and sustainability.
James H. Stock, an economics professor who has taught at Harvard for over three decades, will serve as the University’s inaugural vice provost for climate and sustainability, Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 announced.
Stock, who served on the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama and has taught courses related to climate change, will oversee the University’s climate research initiatives and collaborations in the new role.
Stock’s appointment comes as the University faces continued pressure to divest its holdings from fossil fuels — an issue that has dominated campus politics in recent years.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted overwhelmingly in favor of fossil fuel divestment in Feb. 2020. Stock, though, has opposed divestment, saying at a 2019 faculty meeting that divestment would send a message “of moral superiority.”
“We would send that message not just to the oil executives who spent $30 million to defeat a carbon tax in Washington state, but to the oil roughneck in west Texas, the refinery worker in Louisiana, the long-haul trucker, and the coal miner in Gillette, Wyoming,” Stock said, according to Harvard Magazine.
Harvard administrators have long opposed divestment efforts led by student activists, arguing the University is best positioned to address climate change through teaching and research, along with campus sustainability efforts.
Harvard pledged in 2018 that it would be fossil fuel-free in its campus operations by 2050 and fossil fuel-neutral by 2026. In his new role, Stock will “support the achievement” of the school’s sustainability goals, according to a press release announcing his appointment.
Harvard’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus have flatlined in recent years, with little progress since 2016 despite success over the previous decade, according to data from the Office for Sustainability. The University also failed to meet its 2020 waste and water reduction goals, which were set as part of its 2014 Sustainability Plan.
Sustainability data from 2020 has not yet been released by OFS.
Separately, the Harvard Management Company, which oversees management of the University’s endowment, has set a goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
At Harvard, Stock has taught numerous courses on environmental economics and energy policy.
“We have many centers of excellence in climate-related research and teaching throughout the University,” Stock said in a press release. “Our task collectively is amplifying and deepening existing strengths and creating new ones.”
—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.