Faculty at the University of British Columbia have voted in favour of the institution divesting its existing fossil fuel holdings and forgoing further investments in companies connected with fossil fuels.

"Students have spoken. Faculty have spoken. It's time for UBC to act," George Hoberg, professor in forest resources management, said in a statement. "Climate change presents an urgent crisis for humanity."

The results of the referendum were released Tuesday, with 62 per cent of voters supporting divestment.

A fossil-free portfolio

Of UBC's $1.2-billion endowment fund, more than $100 million is invested in oil, natural gas and coal. The faculty vote is calling on the university to divest completely from those holdings within five years.

"Just as UBC has pledged to use its campus as a ‘living laboratory’ for sustainability, we call on our university to apply its expertise with the same vigour to the endowment," said Kathryn Harrison, professor of political science and a climate policy expert.

"UBC should devise a profitable, fossil-free portfolio that can serve as an inspiration for sustainable investing by other institutions."

The faculty will now put their proposal to the university's board of governors.

"UBC is a place of academic dialogue and debate, and we welcome our faculty members’ interest in our investment policies," the university said in a statement responding to today's result. "As the trustee of the endowment, UBC has a fiduciary obligation to ensure that it is managed prudently."

A growing movement

The fossil fuel divestment movement started in the United States and has spread across North America and Canada.

Last year, UBC students held their own referendum on the issue, with an almost four-to-one vote in favour of divestment.

Today's vote comes just before Global Divestment Day on Friday when, the UBC campaigners say, a divestment campaign will be launched at the University of Calgary.

In November, Dalhousie in Halifax was the first Canadian university to vote on the issue, with the board deciding against divestment on the advice of the institution's investment arm.