British Columbia

UBC divestment controversy grows after alternate low carbon fund announced

The UBC Board of Governors' plan to create an investment fund for donors who want a low carbon alternative is not sitting well with students of faculty.

'Does UBC really plan to ignore its own students, faculty and staff, in order to do the wrong thing?'

UBCC350 is a group of students, staff and faculty advocating against climate change and for divesting UBC's endowment fund of fossil fuel holdings. (UBCC350)

A UBC proposal to create an alternative, low carbon endowment investment fund is not sitting well with UBC students and faculty who voted overwhelmingly in favour of fossil fuel divestment last year.

"We're talking about my generation's future on this planet," said Roxanne Hasior, engineering student and Divest UBC campaigner. "Divestment is not a difficult decision. Does UBC really plan to ignore its own students, faculty and staff, in order to do the wrong thing?"

$1.46B endowment fund

About $85-million of UBC's $1.46B endowment fund is currently made up of energy holdings.

Last year 77 per cent of UBC students and 62 per cent of faculty voted in favour of fossil fuel divestment. 

UBC said it considered the divestment proposal but that "it would not be consistent with the board's fiduciary obligation to endowment donors."

Instead UBC announced a proposal to create a second endowment fund known as the Sustainable Future Fund.

 "...the board's finance committee is recommending the creation of an alternative investment fund for donors that is low carbon and meets best practices for environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors," reads the statement. "This new fund will provide an alternative endowment investment choice for past or future donors."

UBC students voted 77 per cent in favour of divestment. (UBCC350)

Alex Hemingway, PhD candidate and Divest UBC campaigner says his organization is frustrated UBC's proposal "would seek to override the results of decisive student and faculty referendum votes in favour of divestment.

Divest UBC is seriously concerned about the closed-door process through which the board has dealt with the divestment proposal, and the flimsy rationales for rejection offered by the committee."

The UBC board of governors will vote on the creation of the new fund Feb. 15.

Forestry Professor George Hoberg says he hopes they will reject the proposal.

"The full board still has an opportunity to set things right, and to show bold moral leadership as we face an unprecedented global climate crisis," he said.

The divestment proposal garnered backlash last month when an Alberta construction CEO vowed to never hire UBC students or graduates, a statement he has since retracted.