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Canadian universities winning divestment wins with financial case

May 04, 2021

Corporate Knights:

When the University of Victoria ended fossil fuel investments in its $225-million working capital fund in February, student activists cheered a hard-won victory.

“It has taken eight years of student action to get to this point,” says Emily Lowan, lead organizer of Divest UVic. “I wish the speed of action was quicker, but still it is a major victory that should be celebrated.”

The campaign is not over. Activists are now focused on UVic’s $445-million endowment foundation. Over the past four years, the endowment has cut fossil fuel investments to below 2% of its portfolio, but it has not as yet promised full divestment. “We are still only halfway there,” Lowan says.

The developments at UVic capture the state of divestment campaigns on many Canadian campuses: some high-profile wins but with miles to go for climate-change activists determined to remove the fossil fuel industry’s social licence to operate.

Despite only a few full divestment successes to date (see sidebar), momentum is with the campus activists, researchers say.

Earlier this year, the non-profit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis reported that the oil and gas sector “placed at the bottom of the S&P [Standard and Poor] 500 in five of the last seven years and second-to-last in a sixth.”

[Jennifer Lewington]

More: Canadian universities on a long road to fossil fuel divestment

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