STUDENTS MAKE A STATEMENT AT BOARD OF GOVERNORS’ MEETING AHEAD OF JULY VOTE

 

This Tuesday, April 3, 2018, we intercepted the University’s Governors as they entered their Board Meeting and handed them a memorandum outlining our support for divestment and our recommended course of action in prevention of the Responsible Investment Working Group report expected in June 2018.

Behind us, we displayed the names of the more than 600 students, faculty, and alumni who have signed our petition in support of divestment at the University of Waterloo.

UW Fossil Fuel Divestment: If it’s non-renewable, it’s non-negotiable

Op-Ed by Kaitlin Thompson and Daniel Tyrie

FFUW is not alone. We are one of many student organizations across North America pushing our academic institutions to better represent our social values in a financially responsible way. Student-led divestment movements similar to FFUW have popped up at all major universities across Canada, including at U of T, UBC and McGill. Last February, Université Laval became the first Canadian university to divest its endowment funds. Syracuse University in the United States saw returns of 12% on its divested endowment fund, demonstrating that the divestment decision is both environmental and fiscally responsible.

The divestment movement is not limited to the academic arena; it has become increasingly common in the private sector as well. More than $6 trillion has already been divested worldwide and the number is growing. In January of this year the mayor of New York City announced $5 billion in divestment, and a lawsuit against five major oil companies for their role in climate change. Lawsuits of this type had historically been limited to environmental groups and Indigenous activists. Norway’s trillion dollar Sovereign Wealth Fund, the largest in the world, recommended full divestment in a move that shocked world markets. These two major developments mark the divestment movement’s transition into the mainstream and set a precedent of environmental accountability for major cities and nations around the world.

Divestment has become more appealing to mainstream actors not only for ethical and environmental reasons but also due to the financial implications. The fiduciary duty of an investor to achieve strong returns on behalf of their beneficiary is no longer seen as a barrier to divestment, but rather a reason to divest. As green energy prices drop and climate consideration becomes a necessity, fossil fuel holdings have become increasingly risky. Conservative estimates show that the University of Waterloo has already realized losses upwards of 14% on fossil fuel investments made in pension, endowment and trust funds, totalling over $20 million between 2011 and 2015. According to PhD candidate Truzaar Dordi, “Some may argue that the University should maintain its fossil fuel investments lest it lose out. However, the opposite concern – that keeping these investments is financially risky – may be the greater concern. The well-recognized terminal decline of the coal industry shows that not every bust is followed by a new boom once clean energy technologies mature.” This information suggests that markets have already begun to respond to the riskiness of fossil fuel investment. Considering that significant government and private  action has been taken to reduce dependence on coal fired plants, it is reasonable to assume that similar actions will be made in the oil industry in order to meet the internationally accepted two degree warming limit.

The University of Waterloo prides itself on being a leader in sustainability and innovation. UW holds Canada’s largest Faculty of Environment and its 2016 Sustainability Report found that 542 courses are focused on or include sustainability. This May UW will take on the role of the Canadian-lead for the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, with its mission to support sustainable development leadership and learning among over 700 participating institutions around the world. This kind of position puts the University in the international spotlight and is an amazing opportunity to lead by example – yet the University simultaneously is quietly investing in the fossil fuel industry that is responsible for devastating our climate and our future.

We the students expect the university to practice what it preaches and take action now. University of Waterloo should maintain its reputation as a leader amongst Canadian universities, and embrace the win-win opportunity that divestment offers. This is our money and we expect it to be spent in ways that reflect our values, offer a secure financial return, and preserve our future. UW students and faculty are demanding that the Board of Governors recognize the importance of divestment and represent the values of its constituents at Tuesday’s meeting. University of Waterloo – this is the time to divest.

See it published in The Record, here. 

Students Ask University of Waterloo President for Action on Climate Change During Town Hall

Innovators Don't Invest in Dinosaurs

As world leaders met in Bonn, Germany at COP23 to work to cut greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the worst effects of climate change, we pressed President Hamdullahpur during his Town Hall meeting to take the urgent action that is needed and divest its pension and endowment fund holdings in fossil fuel companies.

We used this opportunity to urge the University to meet its commitments to environmental sustainability, and take action on climate change by divesting the University of its fossil fuel investments. During question period we unfurled a banner reading, “Innovators don’t invest in dinosaurs,” and asked the University to deliver on the promised public consultation, to assess the financial risks posed by its fossil fuel company investments, to commit to no new investments in fossil fuels, and to develop a strategy to divest its holdings in these companies over the next five years.

As the University of Waterloo celebrates is 60th anniversary, students are less hopeful about the next 60 years. We thus challenged the University to not only divest fossil fuel holdings, but to take collective social responsibility act as global citizens of behalf of a threatened planet.

“Our Funds — Our Future!” A Night of Discussion and Action

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017 approximately 40 students from all six faculties, interested community members, and faculty braved the rain and mid-terms to gather together for a night of discussion and action at the University of Waterloo’s Grad House. The event was organized by Fossil Free UWaterloo for undergraduate and graduate students from across campus to raise awareness about climate change, the actions that can be taken to help mitigate its impact, and the role a divestment campaign can play in working toward this goal. The speakers, representing three of the University’s six faculties, spoke to the issue, highlighting the ethical, health and financial imperatives of taking action on climate change. Their own research was highlighted, while they also drew attention to the fact that what they teach in their classrooms may not be congruent with current actions being taken by the University, particularly where its investments practices are concerned.

Featured speakers:
Dr. Angela Carter, Political Science
Dr. Craig Janes, Public Health and Health Systems
Dr. Olaf Weber, Environment, Enterprise and Development

Fall 2017: Things are heating up this term (not the least of which is the climate)

A lot of exciting things are happening this term! So many things, actually, that it could get a little overwhelming. So, to make things less hectic, here is a simple breakdown of all the divestment action you’ll want to get in on this term:

  1. Despite our opposition, the Responsible Investment Working Group (the group set up by the Board of Governors to study the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) implications of the University’s investments) will be wrapping up its call for comments this Friday, October 13, 2017. So, if you haven’t yet, hurry and send an email to Mike Grivicic, the group secretary, to let him know that you don’t want the University to fund climate change with your money anymore. Know any other strong divestment supporters? Make sure they send the RIWG an email as well! See more information about the Responsible Investment Working Group (RIWG) here.
  2. To illustrate the widespread student-, alumni-, staff-, and faculty-support for fossil fuel divestment on campus, we’ve launched a petition. So, sign it! Share it! And, share it some more! All student, alumni, staff and faculty signatures are welcome!
  3. Want another way of showing your support for fossil fuel divestment? Want to learn from various experts on climate change, divestment and environmental finance? Maybe eat some free food? Then, save the date for our Divestment and Free Food event on Tuesday,  October 24 from 5:00-7:00 pm in the Grad House. See you all there!