An open letter from Fosil Free UW to the university acknowledged that UW has decided on adopting the UN’s Principles of Responsible Investments (UNPRI) but expressed distress over James Schlege’s remarks painting large fossil fuel companies as big clean energy producers. Schlege, the UW Finance and Investment Chair, also mentioned the issue was too complex for people to understand, according to Fossil Free UW.
The letter was written in the hope that the university, with its new strategic plan, places greater importance on sustainability and the climate issue.
The letter suggested three first steps: study the UNPRI’s climate prioritization, research into climate risk, and consider transition risks.
“Adopting the recommendations of the United Nation’s Principles of Responsible Investment (UNPRI) is a significant positive step in updating our investment practices,” Matthew Grant, Director of UW Media Relations, said.
The letter stated Dennis Huber, UW VP Administration and Finance, told a Fossil Free UW members that the UW did not sign the UNPRI because of the climate crisis as it could call some other issue their priority in ten years.
“With respect to the practicality of divestment, Dennis Huber, Vice-President, Administration and Finance, also reported that, under current management, divestment would not be possible,” the letter said.
Grant said UW is making sustainability and taking action on climate change a priority. Responsible investing is only one aspect of their initiative, he said.
“Adding an environmental, social and governance lens to our investment approach and as a signatory to the UNPRI, complements the University’s commitment to supporting social and environmental scholarship and research,” Grant said.
Fossil Free UW emphasized that if UW does not do their part in preventing the climate crisis, it will become destructive. They urged UW to divest from fossil fuels and invest strategically after signing the UNPRI.
“Many of the 133 universities across the planet that are divesting are doing so because of the financial risk that fossil fuel companies pose. In this context, it is fiduciary negligence for the University to continue ignoring the radical and pervasive effects of climate change on economies in general, and fossil fuel stocks in particular,” the letter stated. “The University’s strategic plan includes significant input from the Sustainability Office and the Faculty of Environment to entrench sustainability and climate change into the document,” Grant said.