UBC Moves One Step Closer to Divestment

Glowing Ripple

By Maura Forrest

February 12, 2015

Faculty at the University of British Columbia have voted in favour of the institution divesting its oil and gas stocks and avoiding further investments in fossil-fuel companies.

The faculty vote took place between January 26 and February 8, with 62 per cent of voters supporting divestment. It follows a student vote last year that saw 77 per cent of voters demand that the university divest its $1.2-million endowment of all fossil-fuel holdings.

“Students have spoken. Faculty have spoken. It’s time for UBC to act,” said George Hoberg, a forest management professor who led UBC’s divestment campaign, in a statement.

Currently, the university has over $100-million invested in coal, oil, and natural gas, more than double any other Canadian university. The vote urges the institution to rid itself of those holdings in the next five years.

Despite the large show of support for divestment from faculty and students, the votes are only a partial victory for the divestment campaign. The issue will now go before the board of governors, who will make the final decision.

In 2013, McGill’s board of governors rejected a divestment proposal, as did Dalhousie University last November. To date, Concordia University in Montreal is the only Canadian university to have made any formal commitment to divestment. In November 2014, Concordia agreed to invest $5-million of its endowment in sustainable initiatives.

Still, a recent report from the Sustainability and Energy Policy Network (SEPN) found that there are 33 active divestment campaigns on college campuses across Canada. Eleven of those universities have seen students vote in favour of divestment.

UBC’s announcement comes on the heels of another major step forward for global divestment.

Earlier this month, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, worth $850 billion, revealed that it had dropped 114 companies from its 2014 portfolio for environmental reasons. Those companies included coal miners, oil sands producers, and cement makers.

The fund, known as the Government Pension Fund Global, is financed by Norway’s oil and gas revenue, and is the highest-profile institution to commit to divestment thus far.

The SEPN report states that $50 billion hasbeen divested by at least 181 institutions and governments around the world to date.