Saturday, November 1, 2014
Last updated: 7 hours ago

Fossil fuel divestment makes it to January referendum

Members from UBCC350. Clockwise from top left: Aaron Alexandre, Brittany Colville, Cohen Hocking, Nicholas Curry, Gabrielle Schittecatte, Molly Henry, Julie Van de Valk. Photo Carter Brundage/The Ubyssey

Members from UBCC350 recently earned fossil fuel divestment a spot on the January referendum. Clockwise from top left: Aaron Alexandre, Brittany Colville, Cohen Hocking, Nicholas Curry, Gabrielle Schittecatte, Molly Henry, Julie Van de Valk. Photo Carter Brundage/The Ubyssey

UBCC350, a campus group dedicated to fighting climate change, recently earned fossil fuel divestment a spot on the January referendum after successfully petitioning for 1,000 student signatures.

Launched in early November, UBCC350′s Divest UBC campaign asks the university to pull its investments from fossil fuel companies. Currently, $100 million of UBC’s $1.06 billion endowment fund, which helps to fund university operations, is invested in fossil fuel companies.

“A single campaign can make a massive difference,” said Divest UBC student coordinator Cohen Hocking, pointing to high school student demonstrations against apartheid in South Africa as examples. In the coming weeks, Divest UBC will be working to educate students about divestment and to raise awareness about the referendum.

To get a question on the referendum, a group needs to get 1,000 student signatures, which Divest UBC reached last week. The question that will appear on the ballot will ask the AMS to get involved in the campaign.

The question will be: “Whereas the University of British Columbia has demonstrated a strong commitment to environmental sustainability, and whereas it is unconscionable to fund our education with investments in fossil fuels that threaten our future on this planet, UBC should immediately forgo further investments in fossil fuel companies, and divest from all existing fossil fuel holdings within five years.

Do you call on the Alma Mater Society to make all reasonable efforts to urge UBC to divest from fossil fuels?”

If students vote in favour of the above referendum, the university is not required to respond.

“It’s not binding to the university in any way,” said AMS archivist Sheldon Goldfarb. However, Goldfarb said a passing referendum would oblige the AMS to take action by urging the university to divest, and possibly incorporate it into AMS policy.

If the referendum doesn’t pass, it can be asked again in future elections. Goldfarb pointed out that the old SUB exists today thanks to an AMS referendum which failed the first time around.

The question will appear on the ballot during this year’s election period, which runs from Jan. 27 through 31, 2014.