WHAT IS FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT?
The fossil fuel divestment movement is defending climate justice through politically isolating climate change’s most nefarious contributors: the oil, gas, and coal industries. The tactic is to have investors, including university endowment funds, sell off their shares in fossil fuel companies: a tactic used with success by past divestment campaigns opposing South African apartheid and the tobacco industry. Globally, this campaign against the fossil fuel industry is the fastest growing student divestment campaign in history, and the CSU is proud to give its support.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH CONCORDIA’S INVESTMENTS?
The Concordia University Foundation, which manages the University’s endowment fund, has over $119 million in investing power. How it chooses to invest this money reflects on the reputations of both the University’s administration and commu- nity. In 2011, according to a publicly-available financial audit, the Concordia University Foundation had over $10 million in oil, gas, and pipeline investments. However, it is not clear how much it has invested in fossil fuels over the past couple years: the foundation’s financial audit previously had an investment category for “Oil and Gas,” but since April 2012, all of the fossil fuel industry investments have been consolidated into one general “Energy” category. The foundation has also transferred much of its responsibility to third party investors who are not obligated to disclose information about how these funds are being used.
HOW BAD ARE FOSSIL FUELS?
According to the scientific community, there is a 95% certainty that man-made emissions since the industrial revolution – specifically the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas – are the primary cause of global warming. About half of these greenhouse gas emissions are produced by only about 90 companies, over half of those are fossil fuel companies.
The time is running out to act on climate change. If the global mean temperature rises only 2°C above pre-industrial levels, we face potentially catastrophic outcomes. To mitigate this, we must leave at least two-thirds of fossil fuels in the ground by 2050.
WHAT ARE OUR GOVERNMENTS DOING ABOUT IT?
Canada was once seen as a leader in the international fight against climate change, but now acts in opposition against meaningful action. Canada was the first, and is so far the only, country to completely withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. At a diplomatic level, our current federal government has been protecting the interests of fossil fuel companies. The lim- itations of our parliamentary system and weak lobbying and ethics rules have allowed the industry to effectively control Canada’s environmental policies.
Domestically as well as internationally, the fossil fuel industry has launched a massive public relations campaign to dispel the science behind global warming. Quebec’s newly elected Liberal government has publicly come out in favour of expanding natural gas fracking projects, as well as new pipelines which would transport crude from the Alberta tar sands eastward. Quebec is also off-course in meeting its already weak climate change obligations it had set for itself for 2020.
WHAT ARE WE DOING AT CONCORDIA?
The student group Divest Concordia, in collaboration with the CSU, has been working to convince Concordia University to divest from fossil fuels. The University endowment fund’s active investment in the fossil fuel industry represents a commitment to a failing system that we feel misrepresents our community’s real intentions and values. For this reason, and many others, we are pushing the University to embrace a more ethical orientation for our investment portfolio. The investments we make today shape the world we will live in tomorrow.
Across over 300 campuses, student groups throughout North America are working on their own divestment campaigns. Some universities have already committed to divesting. At Concordia, we are proud to support our students’ part in this important movement, and hope Concordia will be bold and live up to its reputation as a leader in sustainability. This means divesting, and the sooner the better.
For more information on divestment at Concordia, or to get involved, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org