University of California Divests $100 Billion Fund from Coal and Tar Sands
(California, September 10, 2015) -- It was announced late in the afternoon on Wednesday, Sept. 9 that the University of California's Investment Office has divested the university's nearly $100 billion portfolio from coal mining and oil companies focused on tar sands, in addition to implementing sustainable investing criteria across their investment portfolio.
At the UC Regents' Committee on Investments meeting, Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Bachher outlined: “We’ve gone one step further as part of our housekeeping and managing risks over the course of the year, and selling our direct holdings, to reiterate, in coal mining companies, oil sands focused companies.” This announcement comes just one week after the California State Legislature voted to compel CalPERS and CalSTRS, the nation’s largest public pension funds, to divest from thermal coal stocks.
Fossil Free UC is a campaign of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members demanding that the University of California divest from the fossil fuel industry and reinvest in community-controlled solutions. The UC’s decision follows sustained student pressure, including powerful escalation this spring across the country at a dozen schools including UC Berkeley, Harvard, Bowdoin and Swarthmore. The divestment announcement came through the university’s Framework for Sustainable Investing, which was a product of a task force charged with investigating divestment last summer after students pressured the UC to do so.
“This is a hard-fought victory for students and our allies from across California who have been demanding the UC truly live up to its big talk on climate change,” said Jake Soiffer, an undergrad at UC Berkeley.
In the last three years, the Fossil Free UC campaign has passed student government resolutions supporting divestment at all UC campuses, along with graduate student and faculty association resolutions at Berkeley and support from the UCSB Academic Senate. This year students ramped up the campaign through a series of coordinated protests across the UC campuses—including an overnight sit-in outside the chancellor's office at UC Berkeley.
Despite student pressure, the University of California Regents are still profiting off of the oil and gas industries, which are major polluters in California. According to Soiffer, “This is a much needed first step, but oil and natural gas are the most powerful polluters in California, and we expect the UC to take robust action on the biggest climate villains in their backyard.”
Though the announcement is not accompanied by a change in policy to reflect divestment from high carbon assets, students are certain that this is a permanent shift in the operations of the investment office. “Basing this divestment on market circumstances just reinforces the magnitude of the global transition away from fossil fuel energy. We’re certain that the CIO’s office won’t renege on their commitment to climate leadership by reversing position and buying up shares in the dirtiest and most unprofitable fossil fuels.” said Alden Phinney, an undergrad at UC Santa Cruz.
Fossil Free UC will continue pushing the UC to divest fully, including oil and gas, and reinvest that money back in the hands of communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Victoria Fernandez, recent UC Berkeley graduate, shared, “If the Regents are serious about climate solutions that means not just divesting from fossil fuel companies, but investing in a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards the non-extractive economy. There is no stopping this movement. We have glimpsed a future of dignity, justice and sustainability, and we are determined to make it real.”
Fossil Free UC is a campaign of University of California students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members calling for fossil fuel divestment. They are supported by the California Student Sustainability Coalition & the Divestment Student Network.