Napolitano talks university climate change plan at Department of Energy summit

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UC President Janet Napolitano spoke Monday at a conference on the university’s five-year commitment to allocate $1 billion to climate change solutions.

Napolitano spoke of such a plan, which was later commended by the White House, during a fireside chat at the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy annual summit. The main goals of this effort are to partner with philanthropists, encourage investment by private sectors and support commercial production of climate change mitigation technology.

At the summit Tuesday, the White House launched a Clean Energy Investment Initiative with the goal of raising $2 billion in private sector climate change investment and referenced the UC Board of Regents as a leader in this pursuit.

“We are pleased that the White House has recognized UC’s leadership in sustainable investing and commitment to maximizing the positive impact on the planet,” Napolitano said in a statement.

Although the White House’s initiative doesn’t explicitly affect the university’s plan, UC spokesperson Dianne Klein compared it to a “White House stamp of approval.”

“(Investing) is not only in our interests as citizens of the planet, but in making sound financial decisions,” Klein said.

Still in the early stages of its development, the university’s initiative was announced in September 2014 after discussions between the Office of the Chief Investment Officer and the Regents’ Task Force on Sustainable Investing.

Although there has been significant push for the university to divest from fossil fuel companies, the task force decided to invest in climate change solutions instead.
According to Klein, the Office of the CIO will continue its involvement to “assess viability” of the investments.

The plan to invest at least $1 billion of endowment and pension funds has faced backlash from proponents of fossil fuel divestment.

“At the basic level, it’s good that the UC is taking an initial step to invest in climate change solutions. … We need divestment because it makes a solid difference,” said Jake Soiffer, UC Berkeley sophomore and Fossil Free UC field organizer. “Investment only tells half the story.”

According to Soiffer, groups such as Fossil Free UC are trying to get involved in the university’s billion dollar plan, mainly by making connections with local climate change groups across the UC system and consulting with the Office of the CIO, to “have a say about what the future looks like.”

Contact Mary Lonsdale at [email protected].