What a difference a protest can make.
Just two weeks ago, young climate activists with UBCc350 and Extinction Rebellion UBC staged a nonviolent demonstration at a UBC board of governors committee meeting.
They objected to the committee's refusal to support having UBC's main $1.71-billion endowment pool divest from fossil-fuel companies.
Today, UBC president and vice chancellor Santa Ono announced that his institution has declared a climate emergency.
"At this pivotal moment, the decisions and actions we take today will reverberate beyond our own borders and lifetimes,” Ono said in a news release. “We appreciate the ongoing commitment of our community to mitigating climate change, especially our students, who have shown their remarkable and commendable leadership to address the most pressing issue of our time.”
In addition, the UBC board has agreed to conduct financial and legal reviews to "inform how the university can move forward with full divestment of its main endowment pool ($1.71B) from fossil fuels".
That's on top of the board conducting financial and legal reviews to transfer $380 million from the main endowment pool to the sustainable future pool, which is a fossil-free and low-carbon fund. The results of that review will be presented to the board at its meeting on April 16, 2020.
“UBC’s overall investment in the extractive fossil fuel industry is just over 2 per cent (or $43 million) of the endowment," UBC treasurer Yale Loh said in the news release. "However, as we look at further reducing this investment, we need to consider a variety of important factors.
"These factors include the most effective ways that UBC can influence companies to pursue more sustainable approaches, mitigating potential penalties for removing investments from pooled funds that contain such extractive fossil fuel industry securities, and identifying appropriate alternative funds that are in keeping with the university’s core fiduciary responsibilities to donors, students, faculty, staff, and alumni," Loh continued. "UBC is moving forward with a wide-ranging framework to analyze the endowment from a broader sustainability lens with the goal of developing a comprehensive approach to the climate change risk together with other environmental, social or governance issues.”
Concordia, Université Laval, and the University of California have already pledged full divestment from fossil-fuel companies, according to a report that went to the UBC board of governors endowment responsible investment policy committee last month.
At that time, committee members voted to divest from fossil-fuel companies in its pool of money from its real-estate portfolio and lands, but not from funds in the much larger main investment pool.
Extinction Rebellion UBC has greeted the announcement with skepticism. It promises to begin a hunger strike on January 6 if the university doesn't receuve a firm commitment to divest from fossil-fuel companies by the end of 2019.