Universities must ditch their fossil fuel investments before fundraising

When the University of Toronto Announced On October 27 that the fossil fuel industry would be divested, the surprise was universal among the students, faculty, and staff who organized the divestment drive.

These days, anyone can see the increasing level of danger from climate change and the sinister legacy that the fossil fuel industry will have for today’s youth.

But in 2015, the divestment campaign met with resistance when detailed how fossil fuel corporations inflict great social harm on others by threatening humanity’s ability to feed itself, raising sea levels and storm surges, causing extreme weather, from fires to hurricanes to landslide flooding of land, and impose serious health impacts from direct warming, often on the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Climate advocates at U of T established how the fossil fuel industry threatens First Nations groups and indigenous cultures, while maintaining an atrocious record of human rights violations around the world.

U of T’s response to that request was to refuse the advice of their own handpicked experts, who prefer investment selection to fossil fuel divestment. Why then, after receiving and rejecting the recommendation to divest, did the same administration reverse course in October?

Well this month, U of T is launching a massive “bicentennial” fundraising campaign, which lists “Healthy Lives”, “A Sustainable Future” and “The Next Generation” among its seven campaign themes.

The lesson for other universities in Canada and around the world: They will not be able to finance themselves by appealing to an ambitious vision of a prosperous and enlightened future if, at the same time, they are financing the coal, oil and gas projects that are taking place. burning that future, day by day, as we all watch the damage and fear accumulate.

Every place you go with a photo of a smiling and optimistic student next to the name of your university, someone will demand that you know how continuing to invest in fossil fuels is compatible with empowering the best possible future for young people and their children.

It is clear that the U of T management is increasingly concerned about the carbon bubble and the likelihood that unburnable fossil fuel reserves will become stranded assets as a result of increased government regulation.

In 2016, the university introduced ESG (environmental, social and governance) screening as an alternative to divestment. Since then, ESG factors have become a common feature of most investment plans. Now, U of T is embracing the divestment option as it prepares to launch a new $ 4 billion fundraising campaign.

Opinion: Universities will not be able to raise money if they are financing coal, oil and gas projects, writes a group of professors from the University of Toronto, a doctoral candidate. #ClimateAction #ClimateEmergency #Divest #ESG #cdnpoli

Universities raise funds by virtue of their public service mission. They are funded by the government and given tax-free status because they provide public services, including education and informed comment on public policy.

Therefore, the investment options of a university are never similar to those of an individual or private company that only needs to consider the expected risk and financial return of various options. Universities cannot bet on fossil fuels, knowing that they lead to a devastating future for humanity and the planet.

U of T October Announcement He says: “The evidence of a climate crisis is now incontrovertible” and describes “strategies to avoid a climate catastrophe”, while pretending that the well-being of students throughout life is his main concern.

Divestment is a repudiation of intolerable and socially damaging behavior, whether from the tobacco industry that misled the public and legislators for decades to protect the profitability of its toxic product, or from the fossil fuel industry, which is demonstrably doing the same today.

The university administration, wary of offending pro-fossil fuel alumni, Canada’s financial and corporate sectors, or potential donors, failed to emphasize that divesting from fossil fuels is prudent not just because the fossil fuel industry has a poor return history compared to alternative investments, or because future climate change regulation will undermine its value as the “carbon bubble” of overbuilt and surplus fossil fuel infrastructure, but also because it damages the institution’s public mission of making such investments.

The fossil fuel business model exploits the fact that the world is too politically disorganized to control our pollution, risking collective ruin as we chase fossil fuel revenues without paying attention to cumulative effects, and an investment in fossil fuels. it is a bet that this strategy will continue to work. works.

Colleges that are seen betting against the future of their students will face correct, strong and frequent objections and criticism from community members who can see that the quality and safety of all our futures depends on how quickly we abolish fuels. fossils.

The smart choice is to follow the precedent of the University of Toronto and get out of the fossil fuel industry before your next big fundraising drive. But be sure to tell the world why you are doing it, because serving the public as a credible and outspoken messenger in times of grave danger to humanity’s collective future is one of the fundamental reasons for having universities in the first place.

Gavin Smith, Steve Easterbrook, Sue Ruddick, Paul Hamel, Scott Prudham, and Norman Farb are professors at the University of Toronto. Milan Prazak Ilnyckyj is a PhD candidate at the school.


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