UVic aims to reduce carbon footprint in $225M fund

UVic financial officials are planning to adjust their investments to reflect a commitment to reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change.

The University of Victoria board of governors will consider at its meeting on Tuesday a new policy to inform investment decisions for the $225 million in its short-term investment fund.

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Under the policy, money will be moved from high-carbon-emitting companies and into enterprises in renewable energy and clean technology.

The goal of the new policy is to see companies in the entire portfolio reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. That timeline corresponds with targets set by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Paris Climate Agreement to limit the average rise in global temperatures to 1.5 C. UVic has been under increasing pressure in recent years from concerned members of the campus community to divest itself of shares in fossil-fuel companies.

In December, the 860-strong UVic Faculty Association voted 77 per cent in favour of fossil-fuel divestment. A similar vote in 2014 had yielded only 66 per cent in favour.

Gayle Gorrill, UVic vice-president finance, called the new policy a “holistic” approach to managing investments while keeping in mind the need to reduce carbon emissions to combat climate change.

Single-stroke divestment from fossil fuels fails to address the broad scope of changes necessary to combat a far-reaching problem like climate change, said Gorrill. “We will look at high-carbon emitters from all sectors and not just fossil fuels. We see what we are doing is a very aggressive approach and a holistic approach instead of just saying: ‘We will divest from fossil fuels.’ ”

But James Rowe, UVic associate professor of environmental studies and a member of a campus group called UVic Faculty for Divestment, said the new policy doesn’t go far enough. “It’s better than it was before,” said Rowe. “But it feels like a half measure given the climate emergency that we are all living with.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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