Queen’s has signed onto a new climate change charter as part of its goal to become carbon neutral by 2040.
The University announced on June 18 it had become a founding signatory of Investing to Address Climate Change: A Charter for Canadian Universities. The Charter captures a set of principles aimed at helping universities move to low-carbon investment practices.
“Looking to the future, we must consider decisions that help transition our society to a low-carbon economy,” Principal Patrick Deane wrote in a statement. “Embracing the principles of this Charter helps articulate how the University will address climate change and the responsibility we will take in ensuring a healthy environment for the future.”
The Charter has been signed by 15 Canadian universities including Queen’s, McGill, University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University, University of Guelph, Université Laval, University of Manitoba, McMaster University, Université de Montréal, University of Ottawa, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, University of Waterloo, and Western University.
“Universities have a unique and critical role to play in the fight against climate change,” Deane wrote. “As researchers and educators, we produce and disseminate knowledge about both the current state of our environment and efforts to change a potentially disastrous trajectory.”
The Queen’s Climate Change Action Task Force (CCATF) and the Board of Trustees’ Investment Committee endorsed the Charter because it aligns with both the recommendations of the CCATF approved by the Board of Trustees in March and the Responsible Investing Policy approved in May 2017.
The Charter’s principles include adopting a responsible investing framework to guide investment decisions in alignment with recognized sustainability standards. Such frameworks should incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, encourage engagement with companies to foster disclosure of ESG-related risks, and encourage adopting practices that reduce carbon emissions.
Other principles include regularly measuring the carbon intensity of investment portfolios, setting targets for their reduction, evaluating progress toward climate objectives on a regular basis, sharing these assessments publicly, and ensuring the performance evaluation of investment managers addresses their success in achieving these objectives.
The Charter follows other University efforts to promote sustainability. Queen’s adopted the Climate Action Plan in 2016, which provides a strategy for the University to become carbon neutral by 2040. Following this plan, Queen’s has made investments in infrastructure to reduce its carbon footprint, including the $10.5 million West Campus District Energy Conversion Project.
In 2019, Queen’s also joined the University Climate Change Coalition. The University also has a Sustainability Working Group tasked with providing recommendations for the development of sustainability initiatives.
“Climate change is now recognized as one of the defining challenges facing humanity,” the Charter states. “It is already leading to profound social, economic and environmental changes in Canada and around the world. Universities have a responsibility to act constructively to address this challenge.”
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