University of Ottawa to divest

2016-04-25

in Canada, Economics, Ottawa, Politics, The environment, Toronto

This evening, the following motion was passed at the University of Ottawa:

The board should ask the finance and treasury committee to do the following:

  • Develop a strategy to shift Ottawa fossil fuel related investments towards investments and enterprises, especially those in Canada, involved in creating and selling technologies of the future, including renewable energy and other clean technology solutions.
  • Determine a reasonable time period within which that shift can occur
  • Report to the board annually starting in the fall of 2017 on its progress seeking further direction as it may require

    The exec committee further recommends the board reassess this strategy to determine whether market conditions or any other factors require a change in this strategy.

Obviously the team there deserves huge congratulations for their success. Every institution that takes action makes it easier for campaigns elsewhere to succeed, and harder for opponents to argue that taking action is too risky or not necessary.

That being said, this motion is arguably similarly vague to what U of T decided (although they are admittedly not putting UTAM in charge of implementation). The U of T campaign could have taken a radically different approach to the decision here and portrayed it as a partial success building toward something adequate. Such a response would have had to be agreed in advance, however, and given the mood of the U of T group may not have been possible. Even suggesting it may have exacerbated the deep disagreements about what sort of tactics and messaging are desirable and how success should be measured.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

. April 25, 2016 at 8:51 pm

University of Ottawa board to vote on fossil fuel divestment

Fossil Free uOttawa is asking the school to remove oil and gas shares from its endowment and pension investment funds over the next five years.

alena April 26, 2016 at 11:09 am

That is fantastic– a great victory for the whole movement. Ottawa is clearly a place with a vision!

. April 26, 2016 at 5:19 pm

uOttawa to seek ways to ‘shift’ fossil fuel investments; rejects full divestment

The University of Ottawa Board of Governors voted Monday to try to ‘shift’ the school’s investments in fossil fuel industries, but stopped short of full divestment as many campus activists had pushed it to do.

“We are reducing the carbon footprint of our entire investment portfolio by at least 30 per cent by 2030 — in line with Canada’s national climate commitment,” chairman Robert Giroux said in a statement released Monday evening. “This will reduce far more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than divesting from fossil fuel companies. Solving this problem will require reducing carbon emissions across the whole economy.”

While promising the university would take a leadership role on climate change, the board “rejected the idea of divestment as an insufficient response on its own to the climate challenges we face.”

But the board did agree to have its Finance and Treasury Committee “develop a strategy to shift” the school’s fossil fuel-related investments toward new technologies in clean and renewable energies. The committee is to report annually to the board on its progress.

. April 26, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Organizers with Fossil Free uOttawa were also claiming victory.

“Our demands were always to establish a plan to divest over a number of years, so Fossil Free uOttawa is quite happy with the commitment they made last night which engages the university on a journey to divest all of its fossil fuel holdings and re-invest responsibly and ethically,” said Daniel Cayley-Daoust.

The groups says it intends to continue to push the Board of Governors “to commit to a clear timeline for divestment and further concrete action on climate change.”

alena April 27, 2016 at 10:32 am

It is a victory on many fronts and I think that a multi-faceted strategy to global warming is essential. If our government does not offer strong leadership in this crisis, each organization including the fossil fuel industry will have to do it. The divestment movement is helping to make our academic institutions more accountable and pro-active. Well-done.

. April 27, 2016 at 3:14 pm

uOttawa’s climate commitment helps create greener economy
The University of Ottawa is taking a bold approach as a leading research institution, responsible investor and community partner to address global warming and help Canada move to a greener economy.

On April 25, 2016, the Board of Governors of the University adopted Addressing Global Warming: The uOttawa Response, a report that outlines how the University will continue to take a leadership role on climate change.

This report follows 18 months of work by the Board’s Finance and Treasury Committee on whether the University should divest from its investments in fossil fuels. The consultations included hearing from advocates for the divestment movement, commissioning experts reports, reviewing current and proposed uOttawa investment policies, examining best practices elsewhere and hearing from public discussion panels on campus that included the participation of all those with views to share, including academics, researchers, students and other experts.

Initiatives in the report focus on responsible investment, finding ground-breaking solutions on climate change through our research and teaching and continuing to reduce our campus’ carbon footprint.

The Board rejected the idea of divestment as an insufficient response on its own to the climate challenges we face. The Board has, however, asked its Finance and Treasury Committee to develop a strategy to shift uOttawa’s fossil fuel-related investments over time towards investments in enterprises, especially in Canada, involved in creating and selling technologies of the future, including renewable energy and other clean technology solutions. The Finance and Treasury Committee will report to the Board annually on its progress.

Climate change, and the global warming that results, are the defining challenges of our time. The University of Ottawa is committed to tackling them on many fronts. The broad and effective strategy adopted by the Board will enable the University to do just that.

Milan April 29, 2016 at 1:01 pm
. April 29, 2016 at 3:53 pm

“Social media has been in a bit of a frenzy since the University of Ottawa’s Board of Governors made a decision concerning divestment. Sometimes when you get what you want, it’s never quite the way you want it. Which is why you might have read in the media that uOttawa did not commit to divestment at its Board of Governors meeting this week, or not exactly. And amid the fear-mongering about the risks of divestment by media and several other large Canadian universities, it is understandable why our institution hasn’t used our language. We thought we’d clarify what went down, because language aside, we actually think that uOttawa’s decision is consistent with the principles of divestment, and that is cause for celebration.

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the report of Finance and Treasury Committee (FTC) did not recommend divestment. However, the resolution put forth by the Executive Committee ― and approved at the Board meeting ― takes a different position. While acknowledging the FTC report, the resolution further asks the FTC to:
“Prepare a strategy that will shift uOttawa’s fossil fuel-related investments towards investments in enterprises, and especially those in Canada, involved in creating and selling technologies of the future, including renewable energy and other clean technology solutions.”

Shifting investments away from fossil fuels is the textbook definition of divestment; the university is just choosing not to use our language. Even better, the decision to shift those investments into the renewable energy and clean technology sectors shows a commitment to the kind of reinvestment strategy required to transition to a renewable energy economy.

It’s also important to note that the University of Ottawa committed to use not just its investments, but all of its institutional assets in the fight against climate change. This includes funding research related to clean technologies and other energy solutions as well as reducing the carbon footprint of the facilities on campus.This is a strong statement that we are fully behind.

What does this mean for the Canadian divestment movement?

The University of Ottawa’s decision to become the first Canadian post-secondary institution to commit to divestment is a win for the divestment movement and could have big implications. We hope that we’ve created a wedge ― space to open up a conversation at other universities about the feasibility and necessity of fossil fuel divestment. Hopefully, it will create a domino effect as other institutions follow uOttawa’s lead and commit to divestment.

Is our divestment work at uOttawa done though? Absolutely not. While we are proud of what our campaign has accomplished, what is missing from uOttawa’s decision is a clearly defined timeline for this investment “shift”, as well as a commitment to freeze future investments in fossil fuels. Going forward we’ll be working to ensure that uOttawa adopts a clear timeline and follows through with the admirable commitments it made this week.

In a larger sense, we hope that this decision contributes to the current national debate about energy and climate policies. As uOttawa’s Board of Governors recognized in their decision, the world has, with the signing of the Paris Agreement, agreed to transition away from fossil fuels to a post-carbon society. We hope that other institutions and Canadian society at large will begin to realize that the era of fossil fuels is ending and that it’s time to build a cleaner, more sustainable future. Reducing the impact of the fossil fuel industry in our society through divestment in solidarity with indigenous communities and those most affected by climate change is the first step in order to allow the space for climate solutions to flourish. The climate justice movement needs to continue to push elected officials at all levels of government to implement the policies and practices that will be required for this transition to occur.

We at Fossil Free uOttawa will continue to advocate for strong and clear climate action, whether it be at our university or at the national level, and for a justice-based transition to a renewable energy economy. Will you join us?

Depuis la rencontre du bureau des gouverneurs, beaucoup d’information circule sur les médias sociaux. Parfois quand on obtient ce qu’on veut, ce n’est pas nécessairement la manière dont on veut l’obtenir. Ceci explique pourquoi vous avez peut-être entendu dans les médias que l’Université d’Ottawa a décidé de ne pas se désinvestir des compagnies de combustibles fossiles cette semaine, ou pas exactement. Les campagnes de désinvestissement sur les campus canadiens ont souvent fait face à la rhétorique de la peur en ce qui comporte les risques que pose le désinvestissement. Ce n’est pas surprenant que notre Université ait choisi de ne pas se servir de ce même langage. Nous voulons clarifier ce qui s’est passé parce qu’autre que le langage, nous croyons que la résolution adoptée par l’université d’Ottawa est en ligne avec les principes de la campagne de désinvestissement. Pour nous, il s’agit d’une décision à célébrer.

La confusion est en partie causée par le rapport du comité des finances et de la trésorerie (CFT) qui a recommandé à l’Université de ne pas se désinvestir. Mais la résolution avancée par le comité exécutif – et approuvée par le bureau des gouverneurs – prend une position différente. Tout en reconnaissant le rapport du CFT, la résolution adoptée exige stipule que le CFT doit « Préparer une stratégie pour passer progressivement des investissements dans les combustibles fossiles aux investissements dans les entreprises – canadiennes, si possible – qui créent et vendent des technologies de l’avenir, incluant les énergies renouvelables et les technologies propres »

Passer d’investissements liés aux combustibles fossiles à d’autres investissements c’est la définition même du désinvestissement. Même si l’université a opté d’utiliser un autre langage, la décision de déplacer ou changer ces investissements vers d’autres investissements liés aux énergies renouvelables et au développement de technologies propres démontre un engagement dans des stratégies de réinvestissement dont nous avons besoin dans la transition vers une économie basée sur des énergies propres.

C’est important de noter que l’engagement de l’Université d’Ottawa s’étire au-delà de ses investissements mais s’étend à tous ses actifs institutionnels afin de combattre les changements climatiques sur plusieurs fronts. Ceci inclut les opportunités de financement pour la recherche sur les technologies propres et d’autres solutions, ainsi que la réduction de l’empreinte de carbone des opérations de l’Université sur le campus. C’est une proposition que nous supportons pleinement.

Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire pour le mouvement de désinvestissement au Canada?

La décision de devenir le premier établissement post-secondaire au Canada à se désinvestir des compagnies de combustibles fossiles est une victoire pour le mouvement et pourrait avoir de grosses répercussions. Nous espérons que ceci créera un espace pour de nouvelles conversations sur d’autres campus universitaires notamment en ce qui a trait à la faisabilité et la nécessité du désinvestissement des combustibles fossiles. Nous espérons que ceci créera un effet domino et incitera d’autres universités à suivre l’exemple de l’U de O et s’engager à se désinvestir.

Est-ce que notre travail à l’U de O est terminé? Absolument pas. Même si nous sommes fiers de ce que notre campagne a accomplie, ce qui manque à la décision du bureau des gouverneurs est un échéancier clair pour le désinvestissement des fonds. De plus, nous voulons voir un engagement à geler les investissements futurs dans les compagnies de combustibles fossiles. Dorénavant, nous travaillerons pour nous assurer que l’U de O adopte un tel échéancier et qu’elle applique tous les engagements qu’elle a prise cette semaine.

Nous espérons que cette décision contribuera au débat national sur l’énergie et les politiques climatiques. Comme reconnu par le bureau des gouverneurs, en signant l’accord de Paris, le monde s’est engagé à faire la transition vers une société post-carbone. Nous espérons que d’autres institutions et la société canadienne vont commencer à réaliser que la fin de l’ère des combustibles fossiles approche et que c’est le temps est venu de construire un futur propre et durable. En solidarité avec les groupe autochtones et les communautés qui sont le plus affectées par les changements climatiques, nous voulons réduire l’impact de l’industrie des combustibles fossiles sur notre société. Cette première étape consiste à faire la promotion du développement de solutions à la crise climatique. Le mouvement de justice climatique doit continuer à pousser les politiciens élus de tous les niveaux de gouvernement afin qu’ils développent les politiques et pratiques requises pour cette transition vers un meilleur avenir pour tous et toutes.

Nous, à la campagne U de O sans fossiles, continuerons à exiger des actions ambitieuses et claires pour faire face aux changements climatiques. Que ce soit à notre université ou au niveau de la politique nationale, nous allons continuer à pousser pour une transition vers une économie basée sur des énergies renouvelables et axée sur la justice sociale. Allez-vous vous joindre à nous?”

. May 28, 2016 at 5:43 pm

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the report of Finance and Treasury Committee (FTC) did not recommend divestment. However, the resolution put forth by the Executive Committee ― and approved at the Board meeting ― takes a different position. While acknowledging the FTC report, the resolution further asks the FTC to:

“Prepare a strategy that will shift uOttawa’s fossil fuel-related investments towards investments in enterprises, and especially those in Canada, involved in creating and selling technologies of the future, including renewable energy and other clean technology solutions.”

Shifting investments away from fossil fuels is the textbook definition of divestment; the university is just choosing not to use our language. Even better, the decision to shift those investments into the renewable energy and clean technology sectors shows a commitment to the kind of reinvestment strategy required to transition to a renewable energy economy.

https://m.facebook.com/notes/fossil-free-canada/yes-the-university-of-ottawa-has-committed-to-divestment-they-just-dont-know-it-/992361930877737/?_ft_=top_level_post_id.606348612861164%3Atl_objid.606348612861164%3Athid.175301175965912

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