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Fossil Free UW Calls on UW for ClimateAction through UNPRI
On Tuesday October 29th at the University of Waterloo Board of Governors meeting, Fossil Free UW will protest inaction by the university on climate change at the Needles Hall Board Room between 1:00 and 1:30pm, as board members arrive.
This Tuesday, at the Board of Governors meeting, the University of Waterloo will sign on to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investing (UNPRI). In principle, this is a positive step by the university to ensure that its investments are aligned with climate goals.
In practice, however, the university appears to be avoiding this commitment. According to the UNPRI, “Climate change is the highest priority issue facing investors.” Yet, as Fossil Free UW (FFUW) member Petra Duff points out, "If UNPRI's top priority for investors is the climate, why is it not mentioned even once in UW’s two and a half page update for the board?" (see the Board of Governors agenda pg. 111). Duff adds, "The climate crisis is the defining emergency of our generation. The University President claims to be ‘committed to tackling climate change at an institutional level’ in his message praising students and faculty attending the climate strike; where is this commitment in their investments? This silence is an outrage and we won’t take it quietly."
The university’s silence is not likely an oversight, since students and faculty have been lobbying for divestment and a climate-focus in university investment decisions for five years. In fact, when Environment students voted to divest the fossil fuel holdings in the Waterloo Environment Student’s Endowment Fund in 2015, not only did the Board not divest, it never directly responded to students’ decision.
Why does the university, home of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the country’s largest Environment faculty, never mention the climate crisis with regard to its investing decisions? Is it to avoid upsetting its ties to the fossil fuel industry? Duff speculates, “It seems like they don’t want to have a difficult conversation, but we cannot let them remain silent on this because our future is at stake.”
FFUW calls on the university to make the following commitments:
1. Declare and take necessary action to make climate the #1 priority under its ESG policy, in line with the UNPRI position.
2. Commit to deep emissions cuts by 2030 in the Climate and Energy Action Plan, set for release this year.
3. Reply officially to Environment students who formally voted in 2015 to divest the Waterloo Environment Students’ Endowment Fund of fossil fuel holdings.