"Our job is to make money for the University of California, and we're betting we can do that without fossil fuels investments," said an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times written by Jagdeep Singh Bachher, UC's chief investment officer and treasurer, and Richard Sherman, chair of the Board of Regents Investments Committee.
UC's $13.4 billion endowment fund will be "fossil free" by the end of the month and its $70 billion pension fund "will soon be that way," the article said. "We want to ensure that the more than 320,000 people currently receiving a UC pension actually get paid, that we can continue to fund research and scholarships throughout the UC system, and that our campuses and medical centers earn the best possible return on their investments," the article said.
The article appeared the same day that UC announced its president and chancellors had signed a letter declaring a "climate emergency," joining more than 7,000 colleges and universities around the world.
The UC leaders agreed to increase climate research and environmental education and to achieve climate neutrality by 2025. "We have a moral responsibility to take swift action on climate change," UC President Janet Napolitano said. "This declaration reaffirms UC's commitment to addressing one of the greatest existential threats of our time."
A global campaign for universities and other organizations to disinvest has been waged by climate activists for nearly a decade. In July, UC faculty members called on the university to divest its fossil fuel endowments.
However, Bachher and Sherman said the decision to disinvest was based on financial rather than political or idealistic pressures. The 10-campus system has been shedding fossil fuel investments for several years. It previously dumped several hundred million dollars' worth of investments in coal, tar sands and companies building a Dakota-to-Illinois oil pipeline.
The university, which has seen its investment assets grow to $126.1 billion, hasn't made any new investments in fossil fuels since 2014, the article said. "We have been looking years, decades and centuries ahead as we place our bets that clean energy will fuel the world's future. That means we believe there is money to be made," the article said. "We have chosen to invest for a better planet, and reap the financial rewards for UC."