Students rallied for fossil fuel divestment at the most recent BOG meeting. Photo: Kyle Darbyson.
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University pledges to cut carbon footprint by 30 per cent by 2030

On April 25, after months of anticipation, the University of Ottawa’s Board of Governors (BOG) took a stand against climate change by voting in favour of scaling back fossil fuel investments—putting them ahead of other Canadian universities.

While the BOG didn’t support full divestment, they did approve a report submitted by the University of Ottawa Finance and Treasury Committee (FTC), which recommends that the university cut down on its reliance on fossil fuels as a means of gaining economic capital.

This report, titled “Addressing Global Warming: The uOttawa Response”, details a number of strategies to reduce the U of O’s carbon footprint by 30 per cent by 2030.

These strategies include the funding of new clean energy research projects, the continued support of sustainability initiatives on campus, and the internalizing of new “responsible investment” strategies.

According to the FTC’s report, while the university will seek out new investment opportunities with more environmentally friendly enterprises in the near future, they will continue to engage with fossil fuel companies for the time being, using their influence as shareholders to “demand increased transparency and disclosure on climate change risks.”

“Humanity is moving away from carbon, and if we hold investments in companies that are in that sector then we’re going to lose,” said outgoing U of O president Allan Rock during the meeting , echoing the stance of the recent Paris Agreement on climate change.

Rock continued, saying that the BOG is deciding to move away from fossil fuels “on a schedule and in a manner determined by the Finance Committee as to minimize loss and to get use where we want to go in a responsible way.”

Members of Fossil Free uOttawa—who attended the meeting in droves—were satisfied with the decision.

“They’ve committed to establishing a plan to move their investments away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy and clean technology, which, to me, very much looks like divestment,” said Misha Voloaca, a PhD student at the U of O and a member of Fossil Free uOttawa.

Although he is pleased with the result of this meeting, Voloaca said that Fossil Free uOttawa’s role in this movement is not yet finished and that they need to keep the pressure on the institutions like the U of O in order to see concrete results sooner rather than later.

“We need to accelerate this transition and the university has an important role to play not just as an investor but as an educational institution,” said Voloaca.

The next BOG meeting is set to take place on May 30. While it’s not known if environmental policies will be on the agenda for this next meeting, the BOG will be voting on the university’s budget.