Harvard environmental attorney underneath hearth for oil sector ties
She also sits on the board of administrators for ConocoPhillips, a top fossil gas corporation whose large Willow oil drilling job in Alaska was just lately permitted by the Biden administration. Her annual compensation for the position in funds expenses and inventory awards totals in excess of $350,000, SEC filings say.
Freeman was awarded a study grant previous month by Harvard’s new Salata Institute for Local weather and Sustainability to guide an investigation into corporations’ internet-zero emissions targets. But some at the college say the purpose is inappropriate for somebody on an oil company’s board.
The Harvard Faculty Divest steering committee, a weather-concentrated group of professors, despatched a letter past thirty day period to Harvard’s president-elect and vice-provost for climate and sustainability, questioning the decision to set Freeman in cost of the venture. The team claimed her situation on the ConocoPhillips board could generate a conflict of interest or the overall look of 1, which could hurt Harvard’s popularity.
The Salata Institute has pledged to eschew funding from, and deny partnerships with, companies that really do not purpose to go the economic climate away from fossil fuels, and boasts a mission to “develop and boost sturdy, efficient, and equitable alternatives to the weather modify problems confronting humanity.” Harvard has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2028 and fossil fuel-free by 2050.
The university pledged to divest from fossil fuels in 2021 following yrs of force and is now experiencing requires to slash other ties with oil and gasoline businesses.
As a board member, Freeman has a fiduciary obligation to serve ConocoPhillips’ interests, the faculty letter suggests.
“That’s the concern: Whose interests are getting represented?” mentioned Dr. Regina LaRocque, a professor at Harvard Health-related University, who signed the letter.
Freeman, who has served on ConocoPhillips’ board considering that 2012, reported her role at the oil organization does not depict a conflict with her local climate tasks.
“There are many ways to make a distinction, and activism is pretty crucial,” she mentioned. “I have picked out to engage in several ways, such as by currently being an impartial director on the board of ConocoPhillips to assist progress the changeover to a lower-carbon economy.”
Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips chairman and CEO, stated Freeman has “aggressively advocated for ConocoPhillips to acquire tangible measures to deal with weather modify,” and that for the duration of her tenure, the company has worked to handle climate-connected pitfalls, slash its greenhouse gasoline depth, and set climate targets.
A 2021 examination by independent climate analysis group Carbon Tracker ranked ConocoPhillips’ weather plan towards the bottom of main fossil gas companies.
Phoebe Barr, a Harvard undergraduate and organizer of Fossil Gasoline Divest Harvard, a college student-led activist team, mentioned there is no indication ConocoPhillips is moving in the correct course on local weather.
“ConocoPhillips is nevertheless doing things like the Willow Challenge,” mentioned Barr.
Fossil Gasoline Divest Harvard not too long ago sent a independent open letter contacting on Freeman to resign from ConocoPhillips.
E-mails received by Fossil Gas Divest Harvard underneath the Liberty of Information Act, shared with the World and to start with documented by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, demonstrate that Freeman helped facilitate a conference between ConocoPhillips and a federal company.
In an electronic mail dated January 27, 2021, Freeman introduces two ConocoPhillips officials, govt vice president of method and know-how Dominic E. Macklon, and world wide head of sustainability Lloyd Visser, to fellow Harvard regulation professor John Coates. Coates would within times develop into a director at the Securities and Exchange Commission, a federal regulatory system.
Freeman termed the two ConocoPhillips better-ups “hugely educated, thoughtful, and interested in resolving troubles,” and mentioned ConocoPhillips is “widely acknowledged as the oil and fuel marketplace chief on local weather relevant disclosure.”
The e-mail came as the agency was reportedly thinking of demanding public firms to offer reporting of their local climate-relevant threats, emissions, and net-zero changeover options. The rule is anticipated to be finalized in the coming weeks.
“She was offered the grant to exploration corporate weather pledges and internet-zero commitments and this substantially overlaps with the topic she’s lobbying the SEC about in these email messages,” stated Barr. Freeman denies that her actions qualify as lobbying.
Coates satisfied the two ConocoPhillips officers in Might 2021, an SEC memo reveals. In a comment to the SEC the subsequent month, ConocoPhillips pushed the company to water down the rule.
“The prior introduction to John Coates of two ConocoPhillips executives did not change the ordinary training course of such interactions,” reported Dennis Nuss, a spokesperson for ConocoPhillips.
Harvard permits school to serve on corporate boards as extended as they observe disclosure and conflict of fascination policies.
“I am compliant with the University’s conflict of desire procedures, and I disclose my board do the job prominently in my bio, my webpage, with media, and in my lessons,” said Freeman.
The coverage calls for that economic ties are affirmatively disclosed each and every time a school member talks with policymakers or the public.
Freeman did not use her ConocoPhillips title in the January 2021 e-mail. She maintains she did not breach Harvard policy she and Coates reported the introduction was designed at Coates’ request as he was onboarding at the company, and that he was knowledgeable of Freeman’s posture at ConocoPhillips.
“I asked her to connect me to folks at Conoco, to contain between the numerous organizations I was calling to discover about how weather disclosure was becoming viewed throughout a selection of viewpoints,” Coates claimed.
But Tim Wirth, a former Democratic US senator and former member of the Harvard Board of Overseers, claimed the e-mails continue to exhibit the “deep tentacles of the fossil gas industry” in academia.
“[Freeman] will work for ConocoPhillips,” he stated. “No issue.”
Dharna Noor can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @dharnanoor.