For the past four years, UBCC350 has negotiated with and worked to persuade the Board of Governors to begin the process of divesting UBC’s holdings from fossil fuels. This work consisted first of obtaining a majority of the student and faculty vote supporting divestment, and culminated in the Board’s 2016 decision to release the Sustainable Futures Fund (SFF), which then, was still a fund that was invested in numerous fossil fuel companies. In response to UBCC350's divestment campaign, on Feb 14 th 2017, the Board of Governors approved a revised version of the Sustainable Future fund that was originally proposed exactly one year ago. SFF is now a completely fossil-free fund!

Below are some of the companies that the SFF will be invested in:

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When the fund was first announced a year ago, it was projected to include the following companies- many of which are reputable for their oil & gas business.

How was this possible? UBC stated that they intended to use a common method in the financial industry to calculate carbon “footprints”. This method doesn't include most carbon emissions from burning coal, oil, or gas in the footprint of a fossil fuel company.

For example, carbon emissions from coal power still count toward the carbon footprint of a solar panel manufacturer. The bizarre result is that investments in solar panel manufacturing are at times rated as having higher carbon footprints than coal mining!

The result? This dubious way of defining carbon footprints nearly let UBC continue to invest in nearly the full range of the fossil fuel industry while claiming its investments are "low carbon." 3 Fortunately, the Board has deliberated further and owing to the relentless push by UBCC350, the Sustainable Future Fund will now be a positive step towards full divestment and a better future for UBC students as we are finally comitted to truly a fossil-free fund. We need to let the UBC Board know that their commitment to climate action matters to the UBC community. Send an email to President Ono and the UBC Board by pasting the letter below into your own email!

With this approval, UBC will have created the largest university fossil free fund in Canada, and the second created amongst Canadian universities, after Concordia

The Board stated that their intent with this fund has two objectives:

  1. Meet financial returns, have a financially sound portfolio
  2. To create a fossil free fund

This is very encouraging news- for us and for the global divestment campaign. The climate leadership and the real effort made to uphold the values of sustainability as exhibited by the UBC Board of Governors would hopefully propel the divestment campaign in Canada further.

However, we need to remind ourselves that this fund is only 1% of the endowment fund.

Our initial proposal has called for full divestment of the endowment fund and we will continue standing by our original commitment.

Though this is a victory, we should remember that there is still work to do regarding divestment, specifically the continued expansion of the new fund toward full divestment.

We hope that this approval is a demonstration to other university administrations that a transition to divestment from fossil fuels is ultimately in our best interests.


Letter to President Ono and the BOG

We’re asking everyone from the UBC community who cares about climate change to email President Ono and the UBC Board.

To make this easy you can use the form email below. If you are able to write a sentence or two about your affiliations with UBC’s community at the beginning, please do so as it will add a more personal touch.

Instructions:
Please send the email to President Ono at presidents.office@ubc.ca and the UBC Board at bog.ubc@ubc.ca and please CC us at ubcc350@gmail.com so we can track the responses.

To Professor Ono and UBC Board of Governors,

Thank you for showing climate leadership by working to create UBC’s new Sustainable Future Fund. As a UBC [student, alumnus, staff, professor] I appreciate the time and effort put in by the Board to ensure this fund helps move UBC and our society forward on addressing climate change.

I’m reaching out to you today to express my support for making the Sustainable Future Fund fossil free.

Climate change is one of greatest challenges currently facing humanity. I ask UBC, as a world leader in sustainability and an institution that serves society, to take bold measures by doing all we can to address climate change. As a member of the UBC community I support UBC aligning our investments with our values and doing everything we can for a better future.

UBC has an opportunity to show the climate leadership our society needs by creating a fund that is free of fossil fuel holdings. I see the creation of the SFF as a step towards the full divestment that students and faculty have voted for. I look forward to seeing UBC’s plan to transition the full endowment to the Sustainable Future Fund to reach the community’s goal of divestment.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to your UBC community.

[Signed: your name, UBC Alumni/Student/Staff/Faculty]


Footnotes.
[1] See MSCI Low Carbon Indexes. In essence, only the GHG emissions emitted directly by the company or indirectly for the electricity consumed count towards the company's "footprint." Downstream emissions, such from burning coal for power, generally don't count. This method isn't technically incorrect and it has its uses if considered carefully. However, it can cause perverse (and plain wrong) investment incentives such as finding that switching investments from solar panel manufacturing to coal mining will lower carbon emissions. We think UBC should choose a more reasonable method of defining "low carbon" for its endowment investments.
[2] Life Cycle Assessment of Coal-fired Power Production, Spath et al, NREL (1999). Carbon emissions from the Carbon Disclosure Project, market capitalization from Bloomberg, and results corrected for Scope 1 & 2 emissions to be consistent with the MSCI methodology.
[3] UBC has not yet revealed exactly what investments the "Sustainable Future Fund" will consist of. Instead they have indicated that it will follow the MSCI low-carbon index. The above companies are all constituents of "low-carbon" ETFs (here and here) tracking this index and therefore are very likely to be what UBC invests the Sustainable Future Fund in.