UW passes landmark carbon-neutral investment strategy: No fossil fuel investments by 2025

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The University of Waterloo’s Board of Governors voted to pass a carbon-neutral investment strategy during a meeting on June 1. 

The carbon-neutral investment strategy, No fossil fuel investments by 2025, is “one of the most innovative decarbonization strategies developed by a Canadian academic institution,” according to a press release from Fossil Fuel UW.

“I am incredibly moved by the amount of support that we’ve gotten from the campus community over the past few years that I’ve been a part of Fossil Free UW,” said Petra Duff, a representative of Fossil Free UW at the Divest Canada Coalition. 

“We would never have gotten to where we are without the dedication of everyone pushing this issue,” Duff continued. “From people striking outside of Ira Needles hall week after week to members of campus organizations like WUSA and GSA who pushed to officially support divestment and carbon neutral investing, every effort was crucial in getting us to the table.”

Going beyond divestment, the strategy features several ambitious targets, including a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, 100 per cent carbon neutrality in both its pensions and endowment fund by 2040, and no material positions in fossil fuel exploration and extraction companies by 2025. Other goals include climate-conscious reinvestment as well as an annual disclosure of its performance.

“I was really excited to see UW’s decision to divest its endowment and pension funds from fossil fuel industries by 2025 — investments that are increasingly at risk due to the climate emergency,” said Michelle Angkasa, WUSA’s first-ever sustainability commissioner, in a written statement to Imprint.

“The recommendation is one of the most ambitious and pragmatic solutions by any university, a necessary outcome given the urgency and complexity of the climate challenge we face,” said Truzaar Dordi, a PhD candidate in climate finance and a member of UW’s responsible investment advisory group. 

“This policy is a legacy that secures the university’s position as a leader and innovator in environmental sustainability and climate action — affirming that we indeed walk the talk” Dordi added.

With UW included, there are now eight universities in Canada that have fully or partially committed to divestment from fossil fuels. These include the University of Guelph and the University of British Columbia. Although the University of Guelph was the first Canadian university to commit to fossil fuel divestment in its endowment portfolio, UW’s strategy is both more progressive and more timely. 

“This decision aligns with the university’s reputation as an innovative environmental leader,” said Angela Carter, an associate professor in political science..

 On May 19, UW released its Climate Emergency Declaration, a milestone in the fight against climate change. The report recognizes “that the impacts of climate change are already being felt both in Canada and around the world and will continue to intensify.” 

“I am hopeful that UW will mobilize more of its immense human and physical capital to achieve its climate targets,” Angkasa said.

UW recognizes that “as a public institution with a robust academic reputation for research and teaching on climate change and energy, [it] has a crucial role to play in climate action.” 

As such, the university has reached out to grass roots organizations and called on community support in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region in an effort to listen to the voices of thousands of students calling for change.

“Of course, this decision is just the beginning of the hard work that must still be done. Now that we’ve divested, we must think critically about how to positively reinvest in measures that will pave the path for a more resilient and sustainable future” Angkasa said. 

“I hope that all students take this opportunity to get inspired and to celebrate that our grassroots efforts have paid off. Change is possible, and it’s up to us to keep demanding it!”

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