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Board of Governors votes to sign UN Principles of Responsible Investment

Dalhousie University is one step closer to a green institution, but there are no plans to say goodbye to fossil fuels altogether.  

On Feb. 12, the Dalhousie Board of Governors agreed to sign on to the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment. This is in accordance with recommendations put forth by the Investment Committee’s Fossil Fuel Investment Review.  

Joyce Carter presented the Investment Review Committee’s recommendations, which also included a commitment to look into increasing investment in renewables, among other things. Meanwhile, a dozen members of Divest Dal, which has been advocating for six years for the university to divest from fossil fuels, sat quietly in the back of guest seating area in University Hall. 

When the recommendations came to a vote, board members acknowledged students’ presence and their hard work before ultimately passing the item.  

In an email, Dal spokesperson Brian Leadbetter said: “The Board meetings do not include recorded votes as a standard practice, but this particular motion did pass with strong support. I’m not aware of any dissenting votes or abstentions.” 

According to a press release from Divest Dal, the Board of Governors voted against divestment in 2014. But following a nine-day campout on the Dalhousie quad at the end of 2017, the Board agreed to investigate options for fossil fuel-free investing. The Feb. 12 decision was the result of the year-long process of assessing those investment options. 

“It’s a win, but this isn’t enough.”

For Divest Dal organizer Laura Cutmore –– who’s also the Faculty of Graduate Students representative for the Dalhousie Student Union –– the positive vote is good news. At the same time, she believes Dal needs to do more.  

“Theoretically, the [United Nations] principles of responsible investing should help to divest more of our money from fossil fuels, but it doesn’t guarantee it,” said Cutmore. “It doesn’t necessitate that fossil fuel money leaves the endowment fund.” 

Peter MacKinnon, Dal’s Interim president, is openly against divestment campaigns. In University Commons Divided: Exploring Debate & Dissent on CampusMacKinnon wrote: “They treat all actors within a target industry or activity the same way, and without acknowledgement that some may be a positive influence both in their own behaviours and influencing others.”  

At the BOG meeting, MacKinnon said he wants to look at what a sustainable Dal will look like in 10 to 15 years.  

Going forward, Divest Dal plans to regroup to figure out strategies for the next year. Although the Fossil Fuel Investment Review made no recommendations to completely divest, Divest Dal’s goal remains the same. 

“Today was a big step and we’re celebrating it. It’s a win, but this isn’t enough. We’ve talked to the Board about the UN climate change report that came out last October, which shows that we now have 11 years to take action on climate change,” said Cutmore. 

“This isn’t the end. We have to keep fighting.” 

-With files from Anastasia Payne


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