The University of Ottawa Divests from Fossil Fuel Holdings

Last year’s wildfires and floods in British Columbia and droughts in the Prairies reminded us that climate change remains one of the greatest long-term threats we face. Mitigating its most detrimental effects will require a substantial shift in how we live, work, and invest in order to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming.

The University of Ottawa is following through on its commitments to making environmental sustainability a core tenet of its long-term investment portfolio strategy by announcing that it will divest all its direct equity fossil fuel holdings by 2023 and all indirect holdings by 2030.

“We owe it to future generations to do everything we can today to mitigate the effects of climate change while we can still have an impact,” said uOttawa president Jacques Frémont. “This decision goes hand in hand with our overall commitments to reduce our carbon footprint on campus. I thank the many students who advocated for the important steps we are taking. It is a great example of effective leadership on their part.”

In 2015, uOttawa became the first Canadian university to commit to publicly disclosing the carbon footprint of its portfolio when it signed the Montreal Carbon Pledge.  In 2016, the Board of Governors followed up by approving the “Addressing Global Warming: The uOttawa Response” strategy, and in 2020 uOttawa joined 15 Canadian universities to sign the “Investing to Address Climate Change” charter. By signing the charter, the University agreed to measure and reduce the carbon intensity of its investments, as well as to incorporate ESG (environmental, social, and governance) indicators into its investment management practices. The University’s investments in fossil fuel companies have since declined by 89% to only 2% of its equity portfolio. Its carbon footprint measurement is 72% less than the market benchmark. 

Since making these commitments, uOttawa has increased its environmentally sustainable investments by $94 million, including $19 million in renewable energy, $64 million in low carbon equities, and $11 million in “green” bonds. Meanwhile, the University continues to make key decisions to reduce its carbon footprint on campus, such as retrofitting its oldest buildings. 

Supporting clean innovation 

The University also announced today that it is ramping up its research capacity on climate change and sustainable development. The University is matching a $2 million donation from the Jarislowsky Foundation (Link to Announcement)to endow a new research chair to support research that will identify fiscal policies to reinforce climate-friendly behavior. The Jarislowsky Chair in Clean Economy and Innovation will be mandated with not only advancing climate knowledge but to be an activist in the public sphere, advocating for transformative change. 

The University has long been a leader in innovative research to further public policy on sustainability and help accelerate the development of clean technologies. Moreover, uOttawa hosts one of the largest concentrations of environmental law professors in academia. These initiatives further cement uOttawa’s dedication to the transformational changes the planet needs. 

The University of Ottawa made sustainability a key strategic pillar of Transformation 2030, the roadmap developed collaboratively by members of the entire University community to position it to meet the challenges of the 21st century and seize opportunities that will arise over the next decade. 

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