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UBC declares climate emergency, plans to divest millions from fossil fuels

The University of British Columbia has declared a climate emergency.

Vice-Chancellor and President Santa J Ono said it is time to “directly face the coming challenges” caused by climate change.

He added: “UBC acknowledges the urgency of the climate crisis and we must directly face the coming challenges.

“At this pivotal moment, the decisions and actions we take today will reverberate beyond our own borders and lifetimes.”

<who> Photo credit: UBC </who> Santa J Ono

On Thursday, the UBC board of governors agreed to:

  • “Financial and legal reviews that will inform how the university can move forward with full divestment of its main endowment pool ($1.71B) from fossil fuels”

  • “Financial and legal reviews of transferring $380 million of endowed University funds from the main endowment pool to the university’s sustainable future pool, a fossil-free and low carbon fund established in 2017 to test, validate, and research investment strategies that specifically aim to materially lower carbon emissions, and aim to exclude fossil fuels”

Ono explained that it was important to “to consider the full scope of our impact and align UBC’s emissions reductions plans with 1.5oC; to embrace the need for a managed decline of fossil fuel use and a rapid and just transition to a sustainable economy that also aligns with UNDRIP; to infuse climate justice throughout our activities, priorities, and decision-making frameworks; and to support community coping and adaptation in the face of climate crisis.”

UBC Treasurer Yale Loh said the institution’s overall investment in the “extractive fossil fuel industry” is just over 2% ($43 million).

He added: “However, as we look at further reducing this investment, we need to consider a variety of important factors.

“These factors include the most effective ways that UBC can influence companies to pursue more sustainable approaches, mitigating potential penalties for removing investments from pooled funds that contain such extractive fossil fuel industry securities, and identifying appropriate alternative funds that are in keeping with the university’s core fiduciary responsibilities to donors, students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

“UBC is moving forward with a wide-ranging framework to analyze the endowment from a broader sustainability lens with the goal of developing a comprehensive approach to the climate change risk together with other environmental, social or governance issues.”

To read Ono’s full statement, click here.

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