The divestment campaign began last October, when a student group, called the Brown Divest Coal Campaign, asked the university to stop investing in coal.
"We believe that our university should not be profiting from an industry as dangerous and outdated as coal, which devastates human health and the environment at each step in its life-cycle," the group says on its website.
"Coal is the single largest source of greenhouse gases worldwide and thus a huge contributor to climate change. Mountaintop removal coal mining has already destroyed more than a million acres in Appalachia, and air pollution from coal-fired power plants kills 13,000 Americans each year.”
The group said Brown’s investments "should reflect the university’s values of sustainability and human rights; that’s why we’re calling on President Christina Paxson to divest our endowment from the coal industry immediately."
The committee's unanimous recommendation, reported by the Brown Daily Herald, will go to the school's board of trustees in May.
Brown University's trustees previously have voted to divest from HEI Hotels (over the company's treatment of workers and interference with their efforts to unionize); tobacco companies; and companies profiting from Darfur.
According to its 2012 Sustainability Progress Report, Brown has reduced its energy-related carbon footprint by 29.4 percent below 2007 levels as part of its greenhouse gas reduction plan.
The reduction was accomplished partly by switching from "carbon intensive Number 6 fuel oil" to natural gas at its central heating plant.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, the United States holds the world's largest estimated recoverable reserves of coal and is a net exporter of coal.
The U.S. has more than 1,400 coal-fired electricity generating units in operation at more than 600 plants across the country. Together, these power plants generate over 40 percent of the electricity produced in the United States.