Climate activist group begins hunger strike until UBC meets its demands

Jan 6 2020, 12:43 pm

Members of a climate activist group began a hunger strike at the University of British Columbia (UBC) today, in response to what they say is the university’s lack of action when it comes to a divestment from fossil fuels.

On social media, the group known as Extinction Rebellion said “eight brave rebels” began the strike today, and will “will not eat until UBC commits to full divestment.”

The strike began after the group threatened in late November that it would take such action if its “demands” were not met by the end of 2019.

These demands included:

  • Denouncing the role of the fossil fuel industry in fuelling the climate crisis and perpetuating injustices against Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities in Canada and around the world
  • Acknowledging that the continued operation of the fossil fuel expansion is disordant to a climate-safe future
  • Calling for managed decline if fossil fuels, and a bold immediate transition to a just and regenerative economy and society
  • Encouraging other institutions to follow UBC’s lead and divest their assets from fossil fuels.

“Acclaimed across the world as a leader in the climate change fight, UBC must act to eliminate the hypocrisy of their investments,” the group said.

The group also released a schedule of its planned actions for its first day of action today.

  • 9:15 am to 11:30 am: Land acknowledgement, Introduction to XR, reiterations of reasons for hunger strike.
  • 11:30 am to 12:30 pm: Climate Grief Open Forum. An opportunity for those suffering from grief due to the climate and ecological disaster occurring on our planet to group together and collectively acknowledge and support those impacted by the influence of the human race to the destruction of our planet.
  • 12:30 to 1:45 pm: Move to Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre for opportunity for Board of Governors to meet with strikers.
  • 1:45 to 6 pm: Move back to podium outside the Nest if weather permits, or back to nest and reiterate hunger strike cause.

Last year, Extinction Rebellion staged two public climate action protests, one which included shutting down the Burrard Bridge for a day, and another which include a march through downtown Vancouver at rush hour.

In early December, UBC officially declared a climate emergency, following in the footsteps of municipalities like Vancouver and Surrey.

“UBC acknowledges the urgency of the climate crisis and we must directly face the coming challenges,” said UBC President and Vice Chancellor Santa J. Ono. “We appreciate the ongoing commitment of our community to mitigating climate change, especially our students, who have shown their remarkable and commendable leadership to address the most pressing issue of our time.”

With its declaration, UBC said it has committed to establishing a climate emergency community-engagement process with an aim to allow the community to come together “to consider the full scope of our impact and align UBC’s emissions reductions plans with 1.5oC; to embrace the need for a managed decline of fossil fuel use, and a rapid transition to a sustainable economy aligns with UNDRIP; to infuse climate justice throughout our activities, priorities, and decision-making frameworks; and to support community coping and adaptation in the face of climate crisis.”

As part of its action, the UBC Board of Governors formally agreed to the following:

  • Expressed support of divesting the main endowment pool ($1.71 billion) from fossil fuels, and directed administration conduct analysis necessary to support such action;
  • Financial and legal reviews of transferring $380 million of endowed university funds from the main endowment pool to the university’s sustainable future pool;
  • A fossil-free and low-carbon fund established in 2017 to test, validate, and research investment strategies that specifically aim to materially lower carbon emissions and exclude fossil fuels.

“UBC’s overall investment in the extractive fossil fuel industry is just over 2% (or $43 million) of the endowment. However, as we look at further reducing this investment, we need to consider a variety of important factors,” said UBC Treasurer Yale Loh.

Work underway now adds to the university’s Climate Action Plan developed in 2010.

The plan set some of what the university said are North America’s “most aggressive” greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets in 2010.