Photo Credit: Samantha Hamilton, Photo Editor
U of T to immediately divest from fossil fuel investments and aims to get endowment portfolio to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
Jennifer Zhong, News Editor
On Wednesday, October 27th, President Meric Gertler announced that U of T will fully divest from all fossil fuel investments by 2030 and a net zero greenhouse gas emissions portfolio by 2050. The endowment fund is currently valued at approximately $4 billion and is managed by the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM). This decision is part of a larger 3-part plan for combating climate change at the university.
“It is our belief that this will both accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy and inspire other investors to do the same,” Gertler said in a written letter to the community. “We hope it will also encourage government actors at home and abroad to intensify their efforts to tackle the challenge of climate change.”
Details of the three-part plan
Gertler laid out three specific aspects of the plan for addressing climate change at the university. First, the university will immediately divest from direct investments in fossil fuel companies within 12 months. Due to the more complicated nature of indirect investments typically managed by third parties, those will be phased out by 2030.
Gertler also announced that UTAM will commit to an endowment portfolio that has zero net carbon emissions associated with it by 2050. He highlighted that UTAM is the first university in the world to join the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance. This Alliance is made up of a global group of investors aiming to achieve net zero carbon emissions in a transparent and accountable way.
UTAM has also committed to allocate 10% of its endowment portfolio to sustainable and low-carbon investments by 2025, which is significantly higher than the 2% currently allocated. According to the value of the current portfolio, this will represent an investment of approximately $400 million.
Gertler also unveiled a new plan to achieve a climate positive St. George campus by 2050, by reducing more GHG emissions than the campus emits. This includes energy and utility infrastructure, building designs, renewable energy generation, and more.
U of T’s announcement is especially relevant considering COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, which is currently taking place from October 31st to November 12th in Glasgow, Scotland. A report published by the United Nations (UN) in August has shown that global warming is occurring faster than originally predicted. The COP26 climate talks is touted as the “last best chance” for the world to turn the situation around.
“Our University community hopes the discussions at COP26 in Glasgow, and at future global gatherings, will accelerate collective action against climate change,” wrote Gertler. “I very much hope that the announcements we are making today will provide further momentum to this vitally important and urgent process.”