Response by the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors to the Report of the Finance and Treasury Committee: Addressing Global Warming


The Executive Committee of the Board of Governors (“the Board”) of the University of Ottawa (“uOttawa”) gratefully receives the Report of its Finance and Treasury Committee (“the FTC”) entitled Addressing Global Warming: the uOttawa Response, dated April 25, 2016.

The Executive Committee recommends that the Board:

1. Express its gratitude to the members of the FTC, and especially to its Chair, for the careful, thorough and consultative approach they took to their work;
2. Accept the recommendations contained in the FTC report, including those in relation to divestment; and
3. Underline its strong support for uOttawa’s holistic response to the threat of global warming. As detailed in the FTC report, that response includes (i) preparing the next generation of sustainability leaders through uOttawa’s teaching programs; (ii) developing new and sustainable technologies through our research mission; (iii) the prudent management of our operations and facilities to reduce uOttawa’s carbon footprint; and (iv) uOttawa’s responsible investment policies, including its commitment to the Montreal Carbon Pledge, as the first Canadian university and only the second in the world to sign on.

The Executive Committee recognizes that universities can make a unique contribution to the global movement away from carbon and towards a sustainable economy. In our case, research at uOttawa is accelerating the development of low carbon technologies that are the key to ending the use of fossil fuels. This research holds the potential for an impact far greater than might be achieved by “divestment”.
The Executive Committee noted that the FTC has developed uOttawa's investment policies in recent years to reflect global environmental, social and ethical pressures while meeting fiduciary responsibilities to optimize investment returns.

That having been said, the Executive Committee is aware that the nations of the world have now committed to reducing the use of fossil fuels considerably by 2050, raising questions about the future of investments in this sector and creating an element of long-term risk in relation to those investments.

In order to prudently manage that risk, to stay abreast of emerging market dynamics, and to promote investment practices likely to meet fiduciary responsibilities to optimize investment returns, the Board should ask the FTC to do the following:

• Develop a strategy that will shift uOttawa’s fossil fuel-related investments towards investments in enterprises, and especially those in Canada, involved in creating and selling technologies of the future, including renewable energy and other clean technology solutions;
• Determine a reasonable time period within which that shift can occur; and
• Report to the Board annually, starting in the Fall of 2017, on its progress, seeking such further direction as it may require.

The Executive Committee further recommends that the Board re-assess this strategy in five years’ time, to determine whether market conditions or any other factors require any change in the strategy.