Open Letter to UVic on Divestment

Total Faculty signed on: 200

View list of signatories

Sign the open letter

Ms. Lisa Hill
Chair, University of Victoria Foundation

Dear Ms. Lisa Hill,

It has come to our attention that the University of Victoria Foundation has $20.98 million invested in companies whose main source of revenue is the extraction, distribution or burning of fossil fuels.[1] We are concerned about these investments for ethical and financial reasons and note the growing North American movement, led by students, to see their universities act as moral leaders for their communities by disinvesting from such companies. Such a movement is happening here at UVic, through Divest UVic.[2]

The science is clear: anthropogenic carbon emissions are causing rapid climate change worldwide.[3] These dramatic changes have a profound economic impact globally and will cost the Canadian economy $5 billion / year by 2020.[4] Climate change kills thousands of individuals[5], creates environmental refugees[6] and fossil fuels generate massive environmental effects not only associated with their burning, but also with their extraction, transportation, and refinement.[7], [8]

We should not support, let alone profit from, companies responsible for this suite of effects. Investment in fossil fuels conflicts with the University of Victoria’s mission, which states that it is “committed to… promoting the development of a just and sustainable society through our programs of education and research and the stewardship of our own financial and physical resources”.[9] It also conflicts with the environmental leadership role demonstrated by the University of Victoria in housing the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and other important  initiatives on campus. As with the movement against apartheid in South Africa, students have challenged the University to fulfill its role as a leader on issues of justice. And as with the anti-apartheid movement, this movement will not retire until it has succeeded.

Scientists, industry, and government leaders alike have agreed that catastrophic climate disruption will take place if global average temperature exceeds 2°C.[10] To prevent warming beyond this threshold, two-thirds of the oil, coal, and gas in proven fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned.[11], [12] Therefore, in the long term, the mission of businesses to realize monetary value out of their fossil fuel assets is problematic. On the one hand, their continuing and expanded use is incompatible with the conditions for a healthy planet. On the other hand, their financial value will decline as society comes to terms with the need to leave them in the ground. They, and the infrastructure supporting their extraction, transportation, refinement, and consumption, become ‘stranded assets’. As society begins to internalize external costs by pricing car­bon, the market value of fossil fuels and associated infrastructure will decline, and significantly.

This financial conundrum is now widely understood. A report of the Generation Foundation, committed to sustainable capitalism, urges “diversifying investments into opportunities positioned to succeed in a low carbon economy; and divesting fossil fuel-intensive assets in order to mitigate or eliminate risks related to carbon.”[13], [14], [15] At the recent Davos World Economic Forum (2014), Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank chief, supported fossil fuels divestment, citing the need for investors (such as pension funds and university endowments) to think about their fiduciary duty in the long term.[16] Divesting is the in best interests of investors. A recent report found that excluding the top 200 fossil fuel companies from an indexed portfolio would increase theoretical return risk by a mere 0.003% – and this is without considering the write-down costs of their becoming stranded assets.[17]

To be a leader in sustainability and innovation, and a good financial manager, UVic should align its financial and environmental missions. Universities have both an obligation and a unique opportunity to cultivate a healthy society and planet. Supporting the fossil fuel industry is in direct conflict with this obligation, and with many goals outlined in the University’s Strategic Plan. In fulfilling these obligations, the University of Victoria will align itself with a justly unstoppable social movement whose twin challenges will define this generation: climate change and the need to resolve the social injustices that come with it. By using its financial and social influence, and by being a forward-thinking investor, the University can promote positive change. There will undoubtedly be some logistical considerations in making this change, but the experience gained from overcoming any such problems can itself make a contribution to this important initiative.

We respectfully call on the University of Victoria Foundation to:

1. Freeze all new investments in fossil fuels.

2. Develop a plan to divest all current holdings in fossil fuels as expeditiously as possible but certainly within three years.

We, the undersigned, urge you to consider this request. We believe that the challenges posed by climate change merit urgent action. We stand with students at University of Victoria who lead this campaign, but also colleagues at over 300 other universities across North America working on the same initiative.[18] For example, in our region, the SFU faculty association recently voted to divest from fossil fuels, as did the City of Seattle.[19], [20] The tide is turning. The board of directors of UVic student society (UVSS) recently voted unanimously in favour of Divest UVic’s goals, and the student body at UBC recently voted in favour of divestment (76.9% for).[21], [22]

Finally, we, the undersigned, also signal a commitment to working with the Faculty Association to divest our pension fund from fossil fuels.

We look forward to hearing your response.

Sincerely,

Department of Anthropology
Peter Stephenson, Professor
Quentin Mackie, Associate Professor
Lisa Gould, Professor
Margo Matwychuk, Assistant Professor
Andrea N. Walsh, Associate Professor
Erin McGuire, Assistant Teaching Professor
Lisa M. Mitchell, Associate Professor

Department of Biology
Rana El-Sabaawi, Assistant Professor
Julia K. Baum, Assistant Professor
Barbara Ehlting, Assistant Teaching Professor

Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology
Francis Nano, Professor

Gustavson School of Business
Ana Maria Peredo, Professor, CCBE
Monika Winn, Professor
Basma Majerbi, Assistant Professor

Department of Chemistry
Alexander Briggs, Assistant Professor

School of Child & Youth Care
Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Professor
Jessica Ball, Professor
Jin-Sun Yoon, Teaching Professor
Sandrina de Finney, Associate Professor
Scott Kouri, Sessional Instructor
Vanessa Clark, Sessional Instructor
Miriam Curtis, Sessional Instructor
Jennifer White, Associate Professor
Shanne McCaffrey, Assistant Teaching Professor
Doug Magnuson, Associate Professor

Department of Computer Science
George Tzanetakis, Associate Professor
Maarten van Emden, Professor, Emerita

Department of Curriculum & Instruction
Kathy Sanford, Professor
Trish Rosborough, Assistant Professor
Ana Santos, Sessional Instructor
Yesman R. Post, Sessional Instructor
Jason Price, Associate Professor
C Jean Fraser, Instructor
Michael Emme, Associate Professor

School of Earth and Ocean Sciences
Adam Monahan,Professor
Colin Goldblatt, Assistant Professor
Charles Curry, Adjunct Professor

Department of Educational Psychology & Leadership
Diana Nicholson, Adjunct Assistant Professor
Carolyn Crippen, Associate Professor

Department of English
Nicole Shukin, Associate Professor
Stephen Ross, Associate Professor
Celeste Derksen, Sessional Instructor
Lisa Chalykoff, Assistant Teaching Professor
Jentery Sayers, Assistant Professor
Richard Pickard, Assistant Teaching Professor
Suzan Last, Sessional Instructor
Brian Day, Sessional Instructor

School of Environmental Studies
Jessica Dempsey, Assistant Professor
Karena Shaw, Associate Professor, Director
Nancy J. Turner, Distinguished Professor
Eric Higgs, Professor
John P. Volpe, Associate Professor
James Rowe, Assistant Professor
Natalie Ban, Assistant Professor
Brian Starzomski, Assistant Professor
Trevor Lantz, Assistant Professor
Duncan Taylor, Assistant Professor
Valentin Schaefer, Academic Administrator
Trudi Lynn Smith, Adjunct Assistant Professor
Sarah Marie Wiebe, Sessional Instructor
Brenda Beckwith, Sessional Instructor
Ryan Hilperts, Sessional Instructor

School of Exercise, Science, Physical and Health Education
Greg Mulligan, Sessional Instructor
John Meldrum, Assistant Professor

Department of French
Emily Fromet de Rosnay, Assistant Professor
Helene Cazes, Professor
Marc Lapprand, Professor and Chair

Department of Geography
Cameron Owens, Assistant Teaching Professor
Reuben Rose-Redwood, Associate Professor
Chris T. Darimont, Assistant Professor
Simon Springer, Assistant Professor
Philip Dearden, Professor
Rosaline Canessa, Associate Professor
Michele-Lee Moore, Assistant Professor
Dan Smith, Professor and Chair
Jutta Gutberlet, Associate Professor
Ian Walker, Associate Professor
Trisalyn Nelson, Associate Professor

Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies
Matt Pollard, Assistant Teaching Professor
Elena Pnevmonidou, Assistant Professor
Charlotte Schallié, Assistant Professor

Department of Greek and Roman Studies
Wade Richardson, Adjunct Professor

Department of History
Elizabeth Vibert, Associate Professor
John Lutz, Associate Professor
Andrea McKenzie, Associate Professor
Jill Walshaw, Assistant Professor
Wendy Wickwire, Associate Professor
Gregory Blue, Associate Professor
Jordan Stanger-Ross, Associate Professor
Paul Wood, Professor
Rachel Cleves, Associate Professor
Simon Devereaux, Associate Professor
Lynne Marks, Associate Professor

Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies
Daniela Lorenzi, Assistant Teaching Professor
Beatriz de Alba-Koch, Associate Professor

Department of History in Art
Lianne McLarty, Associate Professor
Victoria Wyatt, Associate Professor

Indigenous Governance Program
Jeff Corntassel, Associate Professor
Christine O’Bonsawin, Assistant Professor

Faculty of Law
Rebecca Johnson, Professor
Michael M’Gonigle, Professor
Freya Kodar, Associate Professor
Hester Lessard, Professor
J. Donald C. Galloway, Professor
Maneesha Deckha, Associate Professor
Deborah Curran, Professor
Chris Tollefson, Professor
Hamar Foster, Professor
Jane Henderson, Professor

Department of Linguistics
Sonya Bird, Associate Professor
Alexandra D’Arcy, Associate Professor
Suzanne Urbanczyk, Associate Professor
Sandra Kirkham, Continuing Sessional Instructor
Susan Gessner, Adjunct Professor

Department of Mathematics and Satistics
Florin Diacu, Professor
Margaret Wyeth, Assistant Teaching Professor

Division of Medical Sciences

Jane Gair, Assistant Teaching Professor
Joana Gil-Mohapel, Assistant Teaching Professor

Department of Mechanical Engineering
Curran Crawford, Associate Professor
Rustom Bhiladvala, Assistant Professor
Colin Bradley, Professor

School of Music
Christopher Butterfield, Associate Professor
Michelle Mares, Music Instructor
Alexandra Dawkins, Associate Professor
Suzanne Snizek, Visiting Assistant Professor
Lanny Pollet, Professor Emeritus
Benjamin Butterfield, Associate Professor

School of Nursing
Carolyn Hammond, Sessional Instructor
Gerrit Clements, Adjunct Professor
Marg Lachmuth, Sessional Instructor
Bernie Pauly, Associate Professor

Department of Pacific Asian Studies
Daromir Rudnyckyj, Associate Professor
Martin Adam, Director, Religious Studies Program
Michael Bodden, Professor

Department of Philosophy
Colin Macleod, Associate Professor
Margaret Cameron, Canada Research Chair
Klaus Jahn, Assistant Teaching Professor
Scott Woodcock, Associate Professor
James O.Young, Professor
Angus Taylor, Lecturer

Department of Physics and Astronomy
Chris Pritchet, Professor
Kim Venn, Associate Professor
Falk Herwig, Associate Professor
Andrew Jirasek, Associate Professor
Dean Karlen, Professor
Michel Lefebvre, Professor
Jon Willis, Associate Professor

Department of Political Science
James Lawson, Associate Professor
R.B.J. Walker, Professor
James Tully, Distinguished Professor
Scott Watson, Associate Professor
Warren Magnusson, Professor
Rita Dhamoon, Assistant Professor
Oliver Schmidtke, Professor
Marlea Clarke, Assistant Professor
Arthur Kroker, Canada Research Chair in Technology, Culture and Theory
Feng Xu, Associate Professor
Avigail Eisenberg, Professor
Matt James, Associate Professor
Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark, Assistant Professor

Department of Psychology
Robert Gifford, Professor
Frederick Grouzet, Associate Professor
Ulrich Mueller, Professor
Scott M. Hofer, Professor

School of Public Administration
Lynda Gagne, Assistant Professor
Budd Hall, Professor
Kimberly Speers, Assistant Teaching Prof
Rod Dobell, Professor Emeritus
Tara Ney, Associate Professor

School of Public Health and Social Policy
Trevor Hancock, Professor & Senior Scholar
Michael Hayes, Director and Professor
Brenda Canitz, Adjunct Professor

School of Social Work
Catherine Richardson, Associate Professor
Donna Jeffery, Associate Professor
Yvonne Haist, Assistant Teaching Professor
Gayle Ployer, Assistant Teaching Professor

Department of Sociology
William K. Carroll, Professor
Simon Carroll, Sessional Instructor
Steve Garlick, Associate Professor
Martha McMahon, Associate Professor
Peyman Vahabzadeh, Associate Professor
Bruce Ravelli, Assistant Teaching Professor
Min Zhou, Assistant Professor
David Huxtable, Sessional Lecturer

Department of Theatre
Conrad Alexandrowicz, Associate Professor

Department of Visual Arts
Lynda Gammon, Associate Professor
Sandra Meigs, Professor
Megan Dickie, Continuing Sessional

Department of Women’s Studies
Laura Parisi, Associate Professor
Christine St. Peter, Professor Emerita
Annalee Lepp, Chair and Associate Professor
Christine Welsh, Associate Professor
Thea Cacchioni, Assistant Professor
Jo-Anne Lee, Associate Professor

Department of Writing
Kevin Kerr, Assistant Professor
David Leach, Associate Professor
Lynne Van Luven, Associate Professor
Marita Dachsel, Sessional Instructor
Patrick Friesen, Sessional Teacher

cc:             Jamie Cassels

President, University of Victoria

 

 

[1]University of Victoria Foundation. (2012). “Statement of Administrative Responsibility for Financial Statements” [Online]. Available: http://www.uvic.ca/vpfo/accounting/assets/docs/financial/foundationfinancialstatements/2012fdnstatements.pdf

[2] See http://divestuvic.org/ for more information.

[3]IPCC, (2013). “Climate Change 2013. The Physical Science Basis” [Online]. Available: http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/#.UvXKq_ldWSp

[4]Canada, National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. (2011). “Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada” [Online]. Available: http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/webarchives2/20130322143132/http://nrtee-trnee.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/paying-the-price.pdf

[5]Global Humanitarian Forum, (2009). “Human Impact Report- Climate Change: The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis” [Online]. Available: http://www.ghf-ge.org/human-impact-report.pdf

[6]Biermann, F and I. Boas. (2010) “Preparing for a warmer world. Towards a global governance system to protect climate refugees”, Global Environmental Politics, 10 (60–88).

[7]Rosenzweig, C. et al., (2008) “Attributing physical and biological impacts to anthropogenic climate change”, Nature, 453(353-357).

[8]IPCC, (2007). “Climate Change 2007- Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” [Online]. Available: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch8.html

[9]University of Victoria, (2012). “A Vision for  the Future- Building on Excellence: A Strategic Plan for the University of Victoria” [Online]. Available: http://www.uvic.ca/strategicplan/assets/docs/strategicplan.pdf

[10]Global leaders recognized the two degree threshold in the Copenhagen accord. United Nations, (2009). “Report of the Conference of the Parties on its fifteenth session, held in Copenhagen from 7 to 19 December 2009” [Online]. Available: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2009/cop15/eng/11a01.pdf

[11]No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2 °C goal. International Energy Agency, (2012). “World Energy Report” [Online]. Available: http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/

[12]Berners-Lee, M. & Clark, D, The Burning Question (Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2013).

[13]Generation Foundation, (2013). “Stranded Carbon Assets: Why and How Carbon Risks Should Be Incorporated in Investment Analysis” [Online]. Available: http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/publications/Policy/docs/PB-unburnable-carbon-2013-wasted-capital-stranded-assets.pdf

[14]Grantham Research Institute of Climate Change and the Environment, (2013). “Unburnable Carbon: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets” [Online]. Available: http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/publications/Policy/docs/PB-unburnable-carbon-2013-wasted-capital-stranded-assets.pdf

[15]Carbon Disclosure Project, (2013). “Lower Emissions – Higher ROI” [Online]. Available: https://www.cdp.net/CDPResults/Carbon-action-report-2013.pdf

[16]King, E, (2014). “World Bank chief backs fossil fuel divestment drive” [Online]. Available: http://www.rtcc.org/2014/01/27/world-bank-chief-backs-fossil-fuel-divestment-drive/

[17]Geddes, P, (2013). “Do the Investment Math: Building a Carbon-Free Portfolio” [Online]. Available: https://www.aperiogroup.com/system/files/documents/building_a_carbon_free_portfolio.pdf

[18]See http://gofossilfree.ca/

[19]SFUFA, (2013). “General Meeting Report, November 7, 2013”, [Online]. Available: http://www.sfufa.ca/3179/general-meeting-report-november-7-2013/

[20]McGinn, M. (2013), “Next Steps on Fossil Fuel Divestment”, [Online]. Available: http://mayormcginn.seattle.gov/next-steps-on-fossil-fuel-divestment/

[21]Hammer, M. (2014), “Students demand that University of Victoria divest from fossil fuels” [Online]. Available: https://uvss.ca/2014/02/05/uvssdivestment/

[22]The Ubyssey. (2014), “2014 AMS Elections referendum numbers released”, [Online]. Available: http://ubyssey.ca/ams/

 

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