The UC Regents investments office announced earlier in March that it has removed approximately $150 million of its investments in fossil fuel companies since 2014, but student activists say they will continue to pressure the Regents until full divestment is reached.
“The UC is currently invested to the tune of about $2.8 billion in fossil fuel companies, and so $150 million is really just a drop in the bucket; a drop in the ocean, rather,” said Theo LeQuesne, a UC Santa Barbara graduate student and Fossil Free UCSB coordinator.
The Regents’ investments office has pulled funds from two companies — Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics — both of which are involved in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
Students at UCSB and across the UC system have held protests against DAPL’s construction in the months preceding March, calling for the University to divest from companies that support or plan to aid in the construction.
LeQuesne said March’s announcement to reduce investments from such companies is a step in the right direction, but that it is “clearly not enough” because the UC “needs to be divesting funds more boldly.”
“It’s a victory that has shown that what we are doing is working, but it also means we need to keep the pressure up,” he said. “We need to keep pushing further for our full goal, which is full divestment.”
UC Regents Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher said repeatedly at the March 14 meeting of the Regents’ Investments Subcommittee, however, that the decision was based on investment risk and not public pressure on the topic, despite saying he had received 30 to 40 calls asking for divestment the day before the meeting.
“We do not divest in our office. We will not make a statement trying to grab a headline irrespective of the pressure on the topic,” Bachher said at the subcommittee meeting.
According to Bachher, the Regents’ investments office has been generally pulling investments from companies which have “higher sustainable investment risks.” He said his office decided to remove from its portfolio certain investments in fossil fuel companies because of “social, sort of more of the headline risks, sustainability-type risks attached to those names.”
The UC has owned as much as $50 million in bonds with Energy Transfer Partners, an investment Bachher said his office has been gradually selling over time. The University now has $19 or $20 million invested in the fossil fuel company, which Bachher said he “clearly foresee[s] us moving out of in the near future.”
The UC Regents divested approximately $200 million from coal and oil-sands companies in September 2014. Bachher said to the Regents in March that this was also a move to invest more sustainably.
“In hindsight, it was probably a good move back then. And we’ve continued that process to what I would call where we have higher sustainable investment risk in particularly oil and gas exploration and production energy-type assets,” Bachher said. “We’ve continued to de-risk the portfolio as we’ve re-underwritten everything we own.”
LeQuesne said he sees little to no difference between “de-risking” and divestment.
“They are eager to call this process de-risking rather than divesting, but I think it’s important that we push back on that and say de-risking and divesting, all those mean the same,” he said.