British Columbia

University of British Columbia declares climate emergency

In late September, more than 1,600 people from the campus community signed an open letter calling for the declaration.

The declaration comes after weeks of ongoing pressure from students and activists

UBC's president declared a climate emergency on Tuesday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The University of British Columbia (UBC) has joined organizations around the world in declaring a climate emergency. 

UBC's president Santa Ono, made the declaration on Thursday following ongoing pressure from the campus community. 

"At this pivotal moment, the decisions and actions we take today will reverberate beyond our own borders and lifetimes," said Ono in a statement. 

In September, more than 5,000 people from the community campus took part in a global climate strike. A week after the strike, more than 1,600 people signed an open letter calling on the university to declare a climate emergency. 

The declaration means the university will commit to reviewing its emissions reductions plan, transitioning into a sustainable economy, and helping in the decline of fossil fuel use, Ono said in a statement. 

Along with the declaration, the board of governors has voted to work toward divesting the university's $1.7 billion endowment. The review would look into moving investments away from fossil fuels.

Hundreds of students walked out of classes on Sept. 27 to protest government inaction on climate change in downtown Vancouver. ((Evan Mitsui/CBC))

Meanwhile, the board has officially approved transferring $380 million from the endowment into a fossil-free- and low-carbon fund established to research investment strategies to lower carbon emissions. 

"We're hopeful what we can do is demonstrate that we can be good for both the environment and the endowment," UBC's treasurer Yale Loh told CBC. 

Loh said students and activists looking for a fast and complete divestment from fossil fuel companies have to be patient, adding there are legal considerations at play.

With files from Rafferty Baker