UBC votes to divest $380M from fossil fuels, but students demand more

A committee of the University of British Columbia's board of governors has voted to transfer $380 million from part of its endowment to a "sustainable" fund — but many students want the university to divest its entire $2-billion endowment fund of fossil fuel investments.

UBC says the board's investment policy committee, which met on Friday, recommended the change to the full board. The proposed change is pending a legal review and study, which UBC expects to be completed by March 31, 2020.

"The Board of Governors was further supportive of the comprehensive framework presented on Friday that would ultimately position the endowment portfolio to address climate change risk and other important factors in coordination with UBC's broader sustainability goals," said UBC treasurer Yale Loh in a written statement.  

"This framework could result in a portfolio that has a carbon emission reduction target beyond what could be achieved through simple divestment." 

About 40 members of UBCC350, a group of students, faculty, staff and alumni who are calling on the university to divest its entire endowment of fossil fuel investments, were at the meeting on Friday to show their support for the vote to pass.

Mukta Chachra, spokesperson for the group, said she was glad to see UBC bow to public pressure and approve the transfer. 

"It was a really powerful action," said Chachra, a second-year geography student. "We just want UBC to make a political statement by shaking its ties from these industries."

But Chachra said the university needs to do more, and her group is calling for UBC to fully divest all of its funds of fossil fuels. She says the $380-million transfer represents too small a portion of UBC's $2 billion endowment.  

"[The vote was] clearly not enough considering the situation that we are in," she said. "We are in a climate crisis right now."

Concordia University and the University of California recently pledged to divest all of their funds of fossil fuels.