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UB statement on environment mum on fossil fuel investment

The University at Buffalo will continue to play a critical role in shaping a "sustainable society" and seeking innovative solutions to climate change, University at Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathi said this week.

The university posted Tripathi's statement on its website nearly two weeks after President Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord that aims to slow global warming. Tripathi referenced State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher's recent pledge to remain committed to goals laid out in the Paris Climate agreement, including reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

"We are not paying lip service to reducing our carbon footprint. Rather, we are taking clear, measurable action to respond to the increasing pace and intensity of global climate change," Tripathi said.

The statement cited UB's commitment to becoming climate neutral by 2030, the university's creation of nine LEED-certified facilities, the "Solar Stand" of 3,200 photovoltaic panels that helps power hundreds of student apartments on the North Campus and a variety of other university efforts and recognitions. Tripathi also noted that UB in 2014 launched a university-wide interdisciplinary research institute, dubbed RENEW, that focuses on complex environmental issues.

The statement does not address growing concern on campus about the extent to which the University at Buffalo Foundation, UB's private fundraising arm, invests in the fossil fuel industry. Fossil Free UB, a grassroots student group, has helped build a divestment movement on campus, with student government groups and the UB Faculty Senate calling upon the foundation to divest from all fossil fuel stocks and corporate bonds within five years and to reinvest the money in clean energy and "socially responsible alternatives."

UB students pushing foundation to divest from fossil fuels

Sophomore Alexa Ringer, a leader in Fossil Free UB, said the university does some "important things" for the environment, but not nearly enough. Tripathi's statement doesn't commit the university to doing anything further, Ringer said.

"In fact, they just say what they're already doing," she said. "It is lip service."

The Fossil Free group maintains that through divestment, the university and its foundation can help break the fossil fuel industry's hold on the economy and government. The group's petition has more than 1,600 signatures.

It's not clear how much money the UB Foundation invests in fossil fuel companies. The foundation holds assets of more than a $1 billion on behalf of the state's largest public research university, but it does not include in its federal tax returns or consolidated financial reports any detailed information about its more than $800 million in investments. Foundation director Edward Schneider did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Tripathi's entire statement can be read here:

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