UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA DIVESTS $100 BILLION FUND FROM COAL & TAR SANDS
SEPTEMBER 10, 2015
CALIFORNIA — Late Wednesday afternoon on September 9, the University of California’s Investment Office announced that it 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 passed a bill requiring 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 group has been campaigning for 3 years. 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.
Yesterday’s 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 undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and leader with Fossil Free UC.
In the last three years, the Fossil Free UC campaign has passed student government resolutions supporting divestment at all ten UC campuses, as well as 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 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 an official policy statement, students see this as a permanent shift in the operations of the investment office. “This is a big deal, and an important first step that takes $200 million away from companies like Peabody — but we need our schools to take a stance against Exxon and Shell too. They’re every bit as responsible for the climate crisis.” said Alden Phinney, undergraduate student at UC Santa Cruz and organizer with Fossil Free UC.
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.”