The University of Victoria says its working capital fund is now free of fossil fuel investments.
The move is hailed as a win for climate action groups and the longstanding Divest UVic organization, made up of students, faculty, staff and alumni.
UVic says $80 million has been moved to a short-term bond fund – the RBC Vision Fossil Fuel Free Short Term Bond Fund – focused on reducing carbon intensity of investments in the pool. The university also says it will invest $10 million to a renewable power impact fund that will measure carbon emissions negated by fund investments.
MAJOR #divest win– @uvic has committed to divesting one of their major investment funds. This is the bold #ClimateAction students want to see, let's keep the pressure on! Email template here: https://t.co/jZUMr4qXfV
— Divest UVic (@divestuvic) February 2, 2021
UVic treasurer Andrew Coward says investing in the fossil fuel free fund allows the school to lower the carbon footprint of its investments.
“Which helps to mitigate the investment risk associated with climate change as society transitions to a greener economy that is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Divest UVic has been campaigning for eight years for the school to divest from fossil fuels. Now, members are calling on the UVic Foundation to publicly release a ‘Responsible Investment’ policy with a commitment to fully divest from fossil fuel companies by 2025. The group also asks for public reporting on barriers to divestment and to use emissions data or analysis to inform investment decision making.
In January 2020 students protested a new UVic policy to lower carbons emissions across its capital fund investment portfolio by 45 per cent by 2030. Divest UVic called the policy “greenwashing” and both the target and timeline for unspecified emission reductions “weak.”
The group said the policy is not divesting from fossil fuels but is an “attempt to respond to community pressure without meaningful change.”
But the newest action constitutes real change, the organization says.
“There’s been an appetite for bold action on campus for years, and UVic is finally delivering, both in climate action and social justice,” Emily Lowan, lead Divest UVic organizer said in a statement. “From today’s divestment announcement to UVic’s support for the Indigenous Law Centre, we are really pleased with the changes [UVic] President [Kevin] Hall has introduced and we look forward to a continued collaboration as we move forward.”
Divest UVic is still pushing for the UVic Foundation to divest $40 million from its Long Term Endowment Fund, invested in the fossil fuel industry since March 2020.