British Columbia

UVic moves $80m to fossil-fuel free investment fund

After years of pressure from advocates, the University of Victoria announced it has dumped its large investments in fossil-fuel industry stocks from its $256-million working capital investment fund.

Advocate says it's time to pull university's long-term foundation investments in industry, too

Student activists at a 2019 protest event against the University of Victoria's investments in the petroleum industry. The movement is spearheaded by the campus organization Divest UVic, which has been pushing for the change for the better part of a decade. (Joshua Ngenda/Facebook/DivestUVic)

Emily Lowan was overjoyed when she heard the news.

After years of pressure from student advocates like herself, the University of Victoria announced Tuesday it has dumped its large investments in fossil-fuel industry stocks from its $256-million working capital investment fund.

According to the release, $80 million in investments from that fund have now been moved to a short-term bond fund that focuses on reducing the "carbon intensity" of the investments within the pool. 

It has also invested $10 million in a renewable power impact fund that will measure the carbon emissions the school has avoided by moving money out of the fossil-fuel industry.

Students participating in a Global Climate Strike event on campus in October 2019. (Facebook/Divest UVic)

"Investing in the fossil fuel-free fund allows us to lower the carbon footprint of our investments, which helps to mitigate the investment risk associated with climate change," said UVic Treasurer Andrew Coward in a statement.

Lowan, spokesperson for the UVic Student Society and the lead organizer of the group Divest UVic, said she has been personally advocating change for at least a year.

Divest UVic has been pushing for the school to pull its money from the oil industry for the better part of a decade.

While money previously invested in the fossil fuel industry has been reallocated from UVic's working capital fund, advocates are still pushing for similar divestment when it comes to the school's longer term endowment foundation. (Facebook/Divest UVic)

"This was an incredibly wonderful surprise," said Lowan, speaking Tuesday on CBC's All Point West.

She said she was shocked to hear the news, but said she thinks the move could have finally been made because the university appointed a new president, Kevin Hall, in November.

While Lowan is thrilled with what she called "this recent win," she said her battle to break the bonds between the institution and the fossil-fuel industry is not over yet.

She says the University of Victoria Foundation — the school's long-term endowment fund — still had about $40 million invested in the fossil-fuel industry as of March 2020 and this also needs to change.

"This foundation endowment needs to be next," she said.

For nearly a decade the University of Victoria has been the target of a student-led campaign urging it to dump its large investments in fossil-fuel industry stocks. The University is now dropping those stocks from its $256-million working capital investment fund. Emily Lowan is the Director of Campaigns and Community Relations with the UVic Student Society and the lead organizer of the group Divest UVic. She spoke with Kathryn Marlow about the development. 8:06

With files from All Points West

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