After seven long years of hearing the cries for divestment from fossil fuels from students and faculty and many hours of crunching numbers over lunch in the University Club, the UVic Board of Governors finally settled on an investment strategy intended to not only save their reputation, but also the planet.
That’s right — they solved climate change. Turns out, it had nothing to do with taking away money and support from fossil fuel companies all along! Instead, UVic now aims to reduce “carbon intensity,” which can only be calculated by technology that doesn’t exist yet — talk about a forward-thinking leader in climate innovations! — by 45 per cent in their short term investments and bonds by 2030.
After the vote, UVic President Jamie Cassels said to the Martlet, “This is the best policy that there is.”
Somebody call Greta — our fearless leader, Cassels himself, has found the best policy there is to combat climate change. Good thing we didn’t divest earlier, or who knows what kind of a climate catastrophe we’d be in right now.
Other universities have recently voted to fast-track divestment, including Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. SFU promised to divest 45 per cent of their endowment fund by 2025 and UBC voted to divest $380 million, with a commitment to working towards full divestment.
But not UVic — no, our university isn’t one for jumping on bandwagons or taking cues from other institutions. Instead, we choose to forge our own path. Well, except when it comes to raising international student tuition.
“Much like choosing the viking as our mascot to show how serious we are about reconciliation, this decision was made after a long, thoughtful period of consultation and consideration by the university,” said the university in a statement mass-emailed to every student and faculty member on campus an hour after the vote passed.
Oddly, students and faculty in the gallery during the meeting did not applaud as this policy passed, seemingly not understanding the display of sacrifice and environmental responsibility from their university.
After all, if full divestment did make the most financial and environmental sense as all evidence seems to suggest, why wouldn’t the university simply listen to the demands made by students and faculty for the last seven years?
There is an overwhelming amount of reasons for UVic’s Board of Governors to vote in favour of full divestment — including following their Strategic Framework priorities of “Promoting Sustainable Futures” and “Fostering Respect and Reconciliation” — that some might even say it was the easy way out.
And if there’s one thing UVic cares about more than sustainability or reconciliation, it’s their reputation. The same year that a United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stated there are 12 (now 10) years before the climate reaches a “point of no return,” UVic spent $168 000 on an initiative to increase their worldwide ranking (which has since only fallen). Divestment could be a real boost to their image both locally and abroad, but UVic knows better than to make rash, crowd-pleasing decisions.
As one of the leading universities in climate research, it’s clear that UVic must be privy to some deeper scientific research than would be known to mere environmental enthusiasts — such as the 200-plus faculty members that comprise UVic Faculty for Divestment. Although the Martlet was unable to find the source backing up UVic’s claims, we have been assured that it’s a good one.
Finally, it’s important to consider UVic’s generosity in committing to this policy. Last year, the university lost $700 000 through their investments in Imperial Oil — a company they may now stay invested in for the foreseeable future.
Was it risky to vote on a policy that seems to have no calculable effect on sustainability, reconciliation, or (most of all) fiscal responsibility at a time when at least one of those principles seem of imminent importance to the global community? Absolutely. But that, as the Board of Governors has shown, is just how much UVic is willing to put on the line to combat climate change.