University of Toronto pledges to divest from fossil fuels, run 'climate positive' campus by 2050

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The University of Toronto's endowment will divest from direct investments in fossil fuel companies within the next 12 months. (Katherine Holland/CBC - image credit)
The University of Toronto's endowment will divest from direct investments in fossil fuel companies within the next 12 months. (Katherine Holland/CBC - image credit)

The University of Toronto's endowment will divest from direct investments in fossil fuel companies within the next 12 months as part of a larger pledge to be "climate positive" by 2050, the university's president says.

Meric Gertler announced a suite of sustainability measures in a letter to members of the university community Wednesday, relating to the university's $4 billion endowment fund.

As part of the move, Gertler says the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM), the university's investment manager, will divest from all direct investments in fossil fuel companies within the next 12 months.

It will then aim to divest from indirect investments, typically held through pooled and commingled investment vehicles, by no later than 2030.

It's part of a wider commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions associated with U of T's endowment by no later than 2050, Gertler says.

CBC
CBC

U of T also plans to be "climate positive" by 2050 on its St George campus, meaning it will curb more emissions than it emits.

The university says this will be accomplished through "transformation of energy and utility infrastructure, adoption of cutting-edge building design and retrofit and an expansion of renewable energy generation."

U of T is building what it describes as "Canada's largest urban geoexchange system," which will use hundreds of geothermal boreholes to store heat, which is generated by mechanical systems in the summer for use in the winter. When completed, the field will help curb U of T's greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 15,000 metric tons annually, according to the university.

As well, UTAM says it will allocate 10 per cent of its endowment portfolio ($400 million) to sustainable and low-carbon investments by 2025.

Gertler said the decisions were made in the hopes that it would "encourage government actors at home and abroad" to increase their sustainability efforts.

"The growing severity of the climate crisis now demands bold actions that have both substantive and symbolic impact," Gertler said.

"When a large institution like the University of Toronto decides to take such steps, it is our belief that this will both accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy and inspire other investors to do the same."

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