RISK: UBC finance committee votes against fossil fuel divestment

77 percent of students and 62 percent of faculty support divestment

The University of British Columbia’s finance committee has voted against selling off the school’s fossil fuel holdings, saying it would go against their fiduciary duty.

The committee, part of the school’s Board of Governors, made the recommendation Wednesday to keep fossil fuel stocks as part of the university’s $1.4-billion endowment, while also creating a $10-million sustainability fund to promote environmental goals.

George Hoberg, a forestry professor and faculty co-ordinator for the school’s divestment campaign, said he was disappointed by the decision and the reasons given for making it.

“As a member of the UBC faculty for 27 years I’m deeply disappointed that the decision departs so far from the university’s stated aspirations to be a leader in sustainability,” he said.

Last January, faculty members at UBC voted 62 percent in favour of selling off the university’s fossil fuel investments within the next five years. A year earlier, students had voted 77 percent in favour of divesting from fossil fuel holdings.

Alex Hemingway, head of the student divestment campaign, said he was disappointed those votes were ignored and that there had not been more consultations.

“It’s very frustrating that UBC has chosen to ignore the decisive referendum votes of both the students and faculty here,” he said.

Hemingway said the UBC divestment campaign will hold a teach-in about divestment on Feb. 9, and plans to continue to put pressure on the Board of Governors on divestment ahead of the Feb. 15 meeting where a final decision will be made.

The Board will also vote at the meeting on whether to approve the proposed sustainability fund, which would hold low carbon investments that meet best practices for environmental, social and governance factors.

Wednesday’s decision by UBC follows the lead of the University of Calgary, McGill University in Montreal and Dalhousie University in Halifax, all of which earlier decided against divestment.

Last December, a University of Toronto advisory committee recommended that the university divest from fossil fuel companies that “blatantly disregard” efforts to halt climate change. University president Meric Gertler is expected to make a final decision on divestment by the end of March.

Concordia University in Montreal was the first university in Canada to adopt a partial divestment policy in December 2014, which only applies to a $5-million fund representing a fraction of the schools’ $130-million endowment.

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P.
Transcontinental Media G.P.