UBC board votes against divestment from fossil fuel industry

VANCOUVER -- The University of British Columbia has rejected calls from students and faculty to dump its holdings in the fossil fuel industry, instead promising to create a low-carbon investment fund.

See Full Article

The board of governors voted Monday in favour of a motion from its finance committee not to divest and instead establish a so-called sustainable future fund. The fund would include a mandate for low-carbon emissions and be seeded with an initial allocation of $10 million.

Getting rid of certain investments is permissible, said finance committee chairman Greg Peet shortly before the vote, but "the universal exclusion of a legally-operating industry that provides irreplaceable goods and services is not."

Peet said aggressive screening criteria for the new fund will result in the divestment of numerous fossil fuel companies.

Investments tied to oil, gas and coal companies make up about 10 per cent of the university's $1.4-billion endowment. Divestment has been an ongoing issue for several years, with students and staff voting separately in favour of pushing fossil fuels out of UBC's portfolio.

Peet told the board Monday that the proposal from staff and students did not make a "compelling case" that divestment would have a meaningful impact on climate change through a moral or political message.

He said UBC's sustainable future fund would have a similar effect to a recommendation made by an advisory committee at the University of Toronto, which called for divestment from fossil fuel companies that "blatantly disregard" efforts to combat climate change.

Of the three student representatives on the board, two opposed the motion not to divest and one abstained. The remainder of the board voted in favour.

Campus-based environmental advocacy group Divest UBC had circulated a letter calling for a transparent, open and evidence-based consideration of divestment.

Spokesman Alex Hemingway told the board that the committee considering the issue refused to meet with his group and only invited it to the final meeting last week.

His statements prompted an apology from finance committee member Richard Johnston, who promised the consultation process would be fixed.

After the vote, several members of Divest UBC, who were wearing black and carrying anti-fossil fuel signs, stood and chanted in unison, "You are failing us."

Hemingway said after the vote that he was extremely disappointed. He said there are indications the sustainable future fund will continue to invest in coal companies.

"We need strong, dramatic action on climate change now, not a drop-in-the-bucket fund."

In 2014, UBC students voted 77 per cent in support of divestment. Last year, faculty voted 62 per cent in favour of selling off the school's fossil fuel holdings within five years.

Concordia University in Montreal became the first Canadian university to adopt a partial divestment policy in December 2014, though that measure only applies to a $5-million fund -- a fraction of the school's $130-million endowment.

The University of Calgary, McGill University in Montreal and Dalhousie University in Halifax have all decided against divestment. The University of Toronto's president is expected to make a final decision by April.


Latest Economic News

  • Canada presses for Thursday signing of free trade deal with EU

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Canada appears to be discounting reports that the signing of its free trade agreement with the European Union might be delayed. Thursday has been set for the signing of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and EU leaders. Source
  • CETA impasse: How tiny Wallonia can hijack the EU-Canada deal

    Economic CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- It's a serious case of the tail wagging the dog. For days now, the small Belgian region of Wallonia, population 3.6 million, has been holding up the signature of a landmark free trade deal uniting over 500 million European Union citizens and 35 million Canadians. Source
  • Shoppers Drug Mart officially wants in on dispensing medical marijuana

    Economic CBC News
    Canada's largest pharmacy chain has formally applied to be a distributor of medical marijuana. "We have applied to be a licensed producer strictly for the purposes of distributing medical marijuana," Shoppers Drug Mart spokeswoman Tammy Smitham told CBC News in an email Tuesday. Source
  • A lousy economy is a good time to start a business, some Calgarians find

    Economic CBC News
    When Kelly Bruce was laid off from her job, it ended a 17-year career working in the oilpatch corporate office towers in downtown Calgary. The news came on a Wednesday in January, and at first she was in shock. Source
  • BlackBerry rolls out new DTEK60 smartphone designed by partner company

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- BlackBerry released on Tuesday its second smartphone designed and built externally, the latest development in the company's push away from manufacturing handsets as it focuses more on its security software. The DTEK60, designed and manufactured by TCL Corp. Source
  • Nissan hiring 300 to develop common connected car technology

    Economic CTV News
    YOKOHAMA, Japan -- The top executive overseeing connected vehicles at Nissan and Renault believes the benefits of developing a common technology for connectivity within the Japanese and French auto partnership outweigh the risks of sustaining huge damage from a possible defect or cyberattack. Source
  • Troubled Italian bank unveils overhaul plan to stay afloat

    Economic CTV News
    MILAN -- Troubled Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena unveiled Tuesday a restructuring plan that will include new management, thousands of job cuts, hundreds of branch closings and the disposal of soured loans in a bid to entice investors to inject up to 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion) in new capital. Source
  • U.K. to decide on new airport runway in crowded London

    Economic CTV News
    LONDON -- Britain's government is expected Tuesday to back a plan to expand London's Heathrow airport despite concerns about air pollution, noise and the destruction of homes in the capital's densely populated western neighbourhoods. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will inform Parliament of the government's decision on how to expand London's airport capacity. Source
  • Ont. electricity system operator reports $80M loss after accounting change

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ontario's efforts to ease the upward pressure on electricity rates has been dealt a setback by a change in accounting practices. In the government's public accounts for 2015-16, the Independent Electricity System Operator reported a "previously unrecognized actuarial loss and past service costs" of just over $80 million. Source
  • Asian stocks mixed after manufacturing reports offset by weak South Korea data

    Economic CTV News
    SEOUL, South Korea -- Asian stocks were mixed on Tuesday as upbeat reports on manufacturing in the U.S. and Europe were followed by weak growth data from South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy. KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 per cent to 17,354.68 while South Korea's Kospi fell 0.5 per cent to 2,036.86. Source