UBC finance committee says no to selling off fossil fuel holdings

Students on UBC campus. Photo by The Canadian Press.

VANCOUVER — 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 finance 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," said Hoberg.

Last January, faculty members at UBC voted 62 per cent in favour of selling off the university's fossil fuel investments within the next five years. A year earlier, students had voted 77 per cent 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.

More in News

Views from a refugee camp: Who gets into heaven?

I have just returned to Vancouver Island from Greek refugee camps where I met a Yazidi man named Jason who told me about his escape from ISIS in Iraq.   His story begins on a desert road where a...

Vancouver's bicycle sharing grows as 15 new stations installed

Mobi bicycle by Shaw Go in Vancouver. Photo by Christopher Porter from Flickr Creative Commons

International Women's Day Concert celebrates female musicians who turned tragedy into triumph

Every March 8, on International Women's Day, we hear about the achievements of brilliant, talented women around the world. But how often do we learn about the physical and mental disabilities or...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.