The University of Ottawa is taking a bold approach as a leading research institution, responsible investor and community partner to address global warming and help Canada move to a greener economy.
uOttawa’s Board of Governors tonight adopted Addressing Global Warming: The uOttawa Response, a report that outlines how the University will continue to take a leadership role on climate change.
“We are reducing the carbon footprint of our entire investment portfolio by at least 30 per cent by 2030 – in line with Canada’s national climate commitment. This will reduce far more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than divesting from fossil fuel companies. Solving this problem will require reducing carbon emissions across the whole economy,”said the Chair of Board of Governors, Robert Giroux.
uOttawa’s report follows 18 months of work by the Board’s Finance and Treasury Committee on whether the University should divest from its investments in fossil fuels. The consultations included hearing from advocates for the divestment movement, commissioning experts reports, reviewing current and proposed uOttawa investment policies, examining best practices elsewhere and hearing from public discussion panels on campus that included the participation of all those with views to share, including academics, researchers, students and other experts.
The Board has asked its Finance and Treasury Committee to develop a strategy to shift uOttawa’s fossil fuel-related investments towards investments in enterprises, especially in Canada, involved in creating and selling technologies of the future, including renewable energy and other clean technology solutions. The Finance and Treasury Committee will report to the Board annually on its progress.
Initiatives outlined in the report include:
Finding innovative solutions
As an institution of higher education, uOttawa will play an active role in finding ground-breaking solutions on climate change, building on the University’s strengths in science, engineering, economics and other areas. uOttawa’s teaching and learning programs already offer an array of courses across disciplines that prepare the “green leaders” of tomorrow. New initiatives include the creation of a Clean Innovation Research Fund of up to $3 million by 2020 to support research, teaching and graduate scholarship effort. Half the funds will come from uOttawa and half from matching donations.
A forum will also be established to stimulate discussion and debate on campus on how best the university can boost its impact in teaching, research and public engagement to combat climate change risks.
The University will continue to ensure its investment strategy meets the highest standards of responsible investing as a signatory of the United Nations supported Principles for Responsible Investment, to ensure environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria are respected in the investment decision-making process alongside economic factors. The approach is widely recognized as the investment industry’s highest standard.
Among the initiatives, uOttawa will create a Clean Innovations Fund, one of the largest sustainable investment funds among Canadian universities, and transfer $10 million of its long-term portfolio to provide seed capital for investing in clean technologies.
In addition, the University will demand increased transparency and disclosure on climate change risks. It will also require external investment managers to report on ESG integration for investment decisions and shareholder activities.
As the first Canadian university (and only the second in the world) to sign the Montreal Carbon Pledge, uOttawa will measure and report annually on the carbon emissions produced across its investment portfolio and identify ways to reduce the emissions, in all holdings, including fossil fuels.
Reducing the campus’ carbon footprint
uOttawa has a well-established standard of excellence in managing and reducing its own environmental impact. Sustainability initiatives on the campus date back to 1974 when the first engineer was hired to manage campus energy consumption. The University of Ottawa was one of the first Canadian campuses to ban bottled water and last week won a 2015 Ontario Minister’s Award for Environmental Excellence.
Today, uOttawa’s objective is to become a Zero Waste campus. Ambitious goals have been set to reduce consumption of water and fossil fuel energy, as well as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, despite continued campus growth of both its population and buildings.
“As an institution of higher learning, we took an evidence-based approach in coming to our decision. Climate change is an issue for us all, and the University of Ottawa is committed to tackling it on many fronts. We all have a role to play in reducing our consumption and protecting our planet for future generations,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Allan Rock.
Manager, Media Relations