UC Board of Regents meeting begins with fossil fuel divestment discussion

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Joshua Jordan/File

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The UC Board of Regents meeting began Tuesday with the Investments Subcommittee, which heard from representatives from Fossil Free UC and a student campaign to divest from the Turkish government, as well as updates on the UC’s investment portfolio.

Fossil Free UC is a student group that spans across all the UC campuses and has been fighting for the university to cut back on fossil fuel investments. UC Berkeley juniors Isabella Muscettola and Sierra Varano and UC Santa Cruz student Laurel Levin represented Fossil Free UC at the meeting and gave a presentation on the benefits of divesting from fossil fuels.

“It is no longer about the polar bears,” Levin said at the meeting. “It is about indigenous sovereignty, worker rights and health. Frankly, when it comes down to it, climate change is a health crisis.”

During the presentation, the three students demanded that the UC make a statement to divest fully from fossil fuels, write a timeline for the divestment plans and voice the moral reasons for divesting.

Muscettola said Fossil Free UC has been in contact with UC Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher since the campaign’s inception in 2012. After both student groups presented, members of the subcommittee discussed the difference between upholding the values of the university and making a political statement through divesting. The subcommittee’s discussion after the presentations was “encouraging,” according to Muscettola.

“Investment is upholding the values of us as an institution and shouldn’t be seen as a political statement and instead as upholding our values,” Muscettola said. “I think that differentiation is important to keep in mind as we move forward with this campaign.”

After Fossil Free UC’s presentation was a presentation from a current UCLA student and a UCLA alumna who are running a campaign calling for the UC to divest from the Turkish government. According to Muscettola, the Fossil Free UC representatives exchanged contact information with the Turkish divestment speakers, and Fossil Free UC representatives support their campaign.

The UC’s financial portfolio also includes an unusual amount of cash assets, which was discussed when Bachher updated the subcommittee on the UC’s investments before the two student groups presented.

The UC holds about $118.3 billion in assets, with $11.9 billion in endowments and $66.7 billion in the pension. Out of that, $1.5 billion of the endowment and $9.1 billion of the pension is in cash assets — unusually high, according to what Bachher said during the presentation.

Bachher noted after the two student groups presented that the UC has already sold about $200 million from its coal and oil sands assets as well as $150 million from fossil fuel companies in order to de-risk the university’s investments.

“We’re actively looking in the market for ways for financially de-risking our energy and natural resources gas and oil portfolio. … There probably isn’t a better time than now, where we see the opportunity to potentially sell in the secondary markets,” Bachher said in the meeting. “It’s these types of voices, and our students’ voices and our faculty’s voices, that educate us on the depth on a number of these types of issues.”

Sakura Cannestra is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.

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  • I love Trump!!!

    Go ahead and divest. The money is being made in the f’ossil fuel companies. Invest in your ‘approved’ companies like Tesla and solar energy equipments that are hemorrhaging money.