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SFU among Canadian universities to sign charter addressing climate change

June 18, 2020
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Simon Fraser University is among more than a dozen Canadian universities to sign a charter furthering their commitment to addressing global climate change.

Under the charter, the universities pledge to adopt responsible investment guidelines that follow recognized standards, such as the UN-supported Principles of Responsible Investment (UN-PRI).

They are also committed to routinely measuring their portfolios’ carbon intensity and will evaluate and publicly share their progress.

SFU—one of the first Canadian universities to become a signatory of the UNPRI—is already leading the way on responsible investing. The university announced in November 2019 its intent to reduce the public equity portion of its investment portfolio’s carbon footprint by 45 per cent by 2025. The move is in line with the October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report on Global Warming, and exceeds both federal and provincial carbon reduction targets.

“As Canada’s Engaged University, SFU is proud to have been a leader in incorporating sustainability principles into our investment policy,” says SFU President Andrew Petter. “This charter provides affirmation of our continued resolve to deliver on that commitment and to be accountable to the communities we serve.”

The charter outlines how universities, as stewards of long-term investments, have a responsibility to manage their capital in ways that help to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. An advisory board will periodically review the charter and share evolving investment expertise.

SFU is also a signatory to the Climate Change Statement of Action for Canada, the Paris Pledge for Action, and the Energy Commitment Statement of Action.

In March 2020 the university announced its new five-year sustainability plan, aligning with its strategic vision and building on the success of its previous sustainability efforts.

The plan sets ambitious new targets and will mobilize the entire institution to help meet its sustainability objectives. Goals include slashing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by half and shifting half of the university’s energy use to renewable sources by 2025. Other targets include certifying 50 per cent of research and teaching labs as Sustainable Spaces and transitioning 40 per cent of the university’s vehicle fleet to electric vehicles (EV).

The university’s Energy Statement of Action commits to an ongoing two per cent annual energy reduction, which has led to a 24 per cent GHG emissions reduction since 2007.

The Corix Biomass Plant, slated to begin operations this fall, will cut the university’s Burnaby campus GHG emissions by 80 per cent.

SFU’s research strategic plan has set climate change research as a key research priority and is supported by numerous research initiatives and collaborations.

The student group SFU350 continues to play a role in raising awareness about how SFU is mitigating climate change and has been instrumental in the development of SFU’s policy to pursue more aggressive targets.

In May, the university was cited as a sustainability leader by Times Higher Education (THE), which ranked SFU first in the world for its impact on sustainable cities and communities, and ninth for its commitment to climate change.

From: Investing to Address Climate Change: A Charter for Canadian Universities

The signatories to this charter pledge to abide by the following principles and practices, and encourage other Canadian universities to do the same:

1.     Adopt a responsible investing framework to guide investment decision-making, in line with recognized standards such as the UN-supported Principles of Responsible Investment (UN-PRI). Such a framework should:

• Incorporate ESG factors into investment management practices

• Encourage active engagement with companies to foster disclosure of ESG (including climate) related risks, and adoption of operational practices that reduce carbon emissions and foster ESG-positive behaviour more broadly 

2.     Regularly measure the carbon intensity of our investment portfolios, and set meaningful targets for their reduction over time

3.     Evaluate progress towards these objectives on a regular basis, and share the results of such assessments publicly

4.     Ensure that the performance evaluation of our investment managers takes into account their success in achieving such objectives, alongside the other criteria for assessing their performance

Signatories:

McGill University                                                       McMaster University

University of Toronto                                                 Université de Montréal

University of British Columbia                                   Queen’s University

Dalhousie University                                                  Simon Fraser University

University of Guelph                                                  University of Victoria

Université Laval                                                          University of Waterloo

University of Ottawa                                                  Western University

University of Manitoba