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UBC finance committee recommends not moving away from fossil fuel investments

Last Updated Feb 3, 2016 at 2:16 pm PDT

(Martin MacMahon, NEWS 1130 Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Fossil fuel-related investment should stay in UBC’s investment portfolio, according to the university’s finance committee, which has decided to make that recommendation to the UBC board of governors.

The reason for this, according to UBC’s vice president of external relations Philip Steenkamp, is the university’s responsibility to protect contributions from donors.

“The university has a fiduciary obligation to its donors,” says Steenkamp. “Donors make donations under particular conditions, and into particular funds. So that’s also a really important consideration.”

Immediately after the committee made its recommendation, students in attendance held up signs and chanted their opposition.

“This is primarily an issue of moral obligation to the future of our climate,” says student Roxy Hasior. “We believe the planet and the climate should be considered in this. If we continue to pollute the climate, the future of everyone is at stake.”

The finance committee is recommending the creation of a sustainable fund which will run parallel to other investment funds run by the university, but student Alex Hemingway says that isn’t enough.

“There’s a huge body of research that shows you can have the same or better returns with a fossil-free fund,” says Hemingway. “We put forward that evidence in our proposal to the board, and it seems it wasn’t considered seriously in the process.”

While Steenkamp admits fossil fuel investments have taken a recent hit, he suggests historically that hasn’t always been the case. But he’s keeping an open mind about this changing down the line.

“We’ve seen in the last couple of months, huge volatility in the market,” says Steenkamp. “The analysts who do this kind of analysis for us say that by narrowing the investment options — if you look at funds like that, the returns are generally lower. Now that might not be the case going forward. Who knows? We might see improvements in those kinds of funds and we’ll continue to assess that.”

The board of governors will vote on the finance committee’s recommendation at its meeting on February 15th.