University of Waterloo - divest fossil fuels and invest in a greener future

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Did you know that the University of Waterloo is currently investing our money in fossil fuel companies that are contributing to the climate emergency?

Every year when students pay tuition, we contribute to endowment funds. The University then invests these funds in fossil fuel companies. Based on a partial disclosure of information from the UW Administration on September 30, 2019, we know that at least $61 million of the university’s investments are in the energy sector, which incorporates fossil fuel companies, pipeline companies, and companies that are indirectly involved in the fossil fuel sector development. These investments include $20.3 million from the student endowment fund![1]

These investments are happening at a time when the effects of global climate crisis are clearly visible - sea ice is disappearing, fires are raging, ocean levels are rising, and droughts and heat waves are longer and more intense.[2] Climate change is having devastating effects on our environment – and on us! Around the world already nearly 1,000 children are now dying every day because of climate change, and the annual death toll stands at 400,000 people worldwide.[3]

Often we feel like there is little we can do as individuals to contribute to a solution – but this is an easy opportunity for us to act! Sign our petition urging the University of Waterloo to divest fossil fuel holdings!

The great thing about the divestment movement is that it is an action that allows all of us to win. It makes environmental and ethical sense to divest (take our money out of fossil fuel companies) – and with our economy transitioning it also makes financial sense. We see the landscape shift daily, with the recent announcements by BlackRock, the European Investment Bank, and the University of California demonstrating how they are moving away from fossil fuels.

On paper, the University of Waterloo has committed to including environmental, social and governance principles in its investing practices, yet $61 million is still invested in companies that are destroying our planet and devastating our future. These investments continue even though we know they are losing us money. From 2011 to 2015 the University of Waterloo realized losses of upward of 14% on fossil fuel investments made in pension, endowment and trust funds, totalling at least $20 million, by investing in fossil fuels as compared to investing in low carbon options.[4] As Dordi notes, “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.”

Corporate Knight’s decarbonizer tool finds trillions in lost opportunity, perhaps most notably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which after rejecting calls to divest from fossil fuels, lost $1.9 billion between 2012 and 2015.[5] Yet, our funds continue to be invested in companies like Imperial Oil and Suncor.[1] With these choices, we will continue to lose as the market continues to shift, while universities that have divested and reinvested wisely are seeing the benefit, like Syracuse, which has seen its funds gain by 12%.[6]

As University of Waterloo’s students, staff, faculty and alumni we urge the University of Waterloo to divest our endowment fund from fossil fuel industry holdings, and invest in greener options.

As of March 2020, funds valued at over $14 trillion have committed to selling off fossil fuel assets – ranging from the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund to other universities.[7] At home, the University of British Columbia, Laval, Concordia and UQAM are leaders choosing to take action. Canada’s most innovative university should not be left behind. Ethically, socially and environmentally, it is not responsible to keep our money in fossil fuel producing companies. It doesn’t make good economic sense either. For our personal, economic and climate futures we need UW to make better choices!

University of Waterloo, we call on you to continue to be innovative, to show global leadership in this energy transition – and to make this choice with integrity. Choose greener options for all our futures!

How we invest our money reflects our values. UW has committed to promoting integrity as a core value of our campus community. Our university must make decisions that reflect our values and priorities – to be in Concordia cum veritate, "In Harmony with Truth". Climate change is a truth that cannot be denied – and that requires immediate action. 

The University of Waterloo signed on to be one of one the Ontario Universities Committed to a Greener World; we call on the Board of Governors live up to commitment, with the objective of transforming our school into a model of environmental responsibility.[8] By changing the way our money is invested, we can change climate future! It is time for the University of Waterloo to bring our practice in the world in line with what we learn in the classroom.

Join us in this call – sign this petition asking UW to remove our money currently invested in fossil fuel companies and make cleaner, healthier and more environmentally and socially responsible investment decisions!

 

This petition is brought to you by Fossil Free UW https://fossilfreeuw.ca/ – a group of concerned students, staff and faculty from across the campus.

In solidarity with the 68 University of Waterloo faculty who wrote to President Hamdullahpur and Members of the Board on February 1st, 2016, Fossil Free UWaterloo is working to ensure that the President and Board assess the financial risks posed by climate change to the University of Waterloo’s endowment and pension plans, commit to no new investment in fossil fuels, and develop a strategy to divest the university from holdings in the fossil fuel industry. We call on them to ensure that these funds are divested completely in the next five years.

[1] University of Waterloo, 2019, http://mathnews.uwaterloo.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Energy-Exposure-Report-as-at-Q3.pdf
[2] NASA. (2017). The consequences of climate change: https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/
[3] DARA. (2017). Climate Vulnerability Monitor: http://daraint.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/CVM2ndEd-FrontMatter.pdf

[4] Dordi, 2017, https://fossilfreeuw.ca/uw-investments/uw-potential-losses/
[5] Carrington, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/16/gates-foundation-divested-fossil-fuels-would-be-19bn-better-off
[6] Divestment from fossil fuels has not caused Syracuse University’s endowment to suffer, official says. (Sept 26, 2017):
http://dailyorange.com/2017/09/divestment-fossil-fuels-not-caused-syracuse-universitys-endowment-suffer-official-says/

[7] Fossil Free. (n.d.) Divestment Commitments: https://gofossilfree.org/commitments/
[8] Council of Ontario Universities (2009): http://cou.on.ca/about/more/commitment-to-sustainability/