Pacific announces plans to divest from fossil fuels
University of the Pacific is taking a major step to combat climate change with a recent decision to begin divesting from fossil fuels.
The Board of Regents agreed to several measures beginning immediately, including removing investments from companies associated with thermal coal and tar sands—among the worst contributors to pollution.
“We want to be good global citizens and do our part to help the planet,” said Regent Evan Dreyfuss ’86, chair of the Board of Regents’ investment committee. “Pacific is going to outlive all of us, so we have to figure out: how do we make sure that we are sustainable?”
The university currently has 7.6% of its $570 million endowment invested in the energy sector. Pacific is working closely with investment firm Cambridge Associates to identify which funds to divest from and explore options for clean energy investments.
“We want to start by targeting investments that are easy to divest from and will have the most impact,” said Chief Financial Officer James Walsh. “We will be able to divest from some immediately, but others will take longer due to the complexity of the investments. We want to make sure we are balancing the needs of the environment while also being good stewards of the endowment for our students.”
The endowment is used to support various academic programs and student scholarships. The university distributed $18.9 million in 2022, supporting nearly 1,200 students with scholarships, as well as instructional, academic and student activities.
A working group of faculty, students and other stakeholders will be assembled to weigh in on the university’s plans for fossil fuel divestment and keep the campus community informed.
ASuop, the university’s student government, actively advocated for a divestment plan for the past two years and were partners with university leaders and the Regents in developing the plan.
“For someone like myself who is really passionate about the environment and finding ways we can be more sustainable, I am really happy we are making this move,” said fourth-year student Marissa Gandolof-Gillaspy ’23, a member of ASuop’s sustainability committee. “While it may not be a full divestment yet, it’s in the right direction and it’s being talked about and students are getting more knowledgeable.”
A dashboard will be created to communicate the university’s fossil fuel exposure. The university also will explore what it means to become a signatory on the United Nations’ Principals of Responsible Investment.
Pacific hopes to use the experience as a learning opportunity for students.
“We have a student investment fund; they could learn about fossil fuel divestiture. We have engineering students that could chime in on different solutions, so this could also be very beneficial from a teaching standpoint,” Dreyfuss said.
Pacific becomes only the sixth private university in California to start divestment of fossil fuel investments, joining University of Southern California, Loyola Marymount University, Pitzer College, California Institute of the Arts and Stanford University (coal only), according to BestColleges.com.
Other sustainability initiatives at Pacific include solar arrays that generate 30% of the energy on the Stockton Campus; sustainable food and dining practices ranked in the top 10 on college campuses, No. 2 in the nation for the percentage of campus-owned vehicles that are 100% electric and using 100% non-potable water to irrigate the Stockton Campus.