A three-month student campaign delivered powerful results earlier this month when Université Laval became the first Canadian campus to commit to divesting all its fossil holdings.
“Today, Université Laval commits to taking responsible action to switch its endowment fund investments in fossil energy to other types of investments, such as renewable energy,” said Éric Bauce, executive vice-rector responsible for sustainable development.
To put the promise into action, the university said it would “form a responsible investment advisory committee, including student representatives, who will be tasked with recommending methods, practices, and actions. Furthermore, an annual progress report on the investment transition will be released.”
The student group behind the campaign, ULaval sans fossiles, declared victory, but told Le Soleil it would stay active and keep an eye on the university through implementation. “Without doubting the sincerity of Laval University, we will make sure that this announcement is more than a public relations exercise or that it sinks into oblivion after the rectorate elections,” said organizer Alice-Anne Simard.
“Throughout the divestment process, exemplary transparency will be required. This is in particular what will enable Laval University to maintain the support and trust of our movement as well as of the student community.”
350.org divestment organizer Katie Perfitt told Ricochet the Laval decision “will no doubt be a huge boost for the hundreds of students across the country also pushing to have their administrations do the same.” She added that “Laval University is demonstrating what climate leadership really looks like. It’s time for others to follow suit.”
And follow suit they did, almost immediately, with a decision at the University of British Columbia to divest the institution’s $10-million Sustainable Future Fund from fossil fuels. ‘The school said in an emailed statement that its board of governors voted to approve a framework for the fund that would see it invested in a fossil fuel-free portfolio managed by investment firm Jarislowsky Fraser,” JWN Energy reports. “Donors can contribute over time and the university will increase the fund if it performs well in the coming years, with potential increases of $5 million in 2017, 2018, and 2019.”
Stephanie Glanzmann of 350UBC echoed Simard’s watchfulness at Laval. “Although we’re taking this as a win, we have a long way to go,” she said. “We intend to continue advocating and keeping a close eye on their actions.”
JWN cites the University of Ottawa and Montreal’s Concordia University as institutions that have taken similar steps, U of O with a clean investment fund and Concordia by partially divesting.