“CUASA Votes to Divest From Fossil Fuels”



By: Gabbi Van Looyen

March 30, 2017

The Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA) has passed a motion at their latest council meeting to divest their pension funds from fossil fuels. The vote, which was held on March 17, received unanimous support among union members.

This is the latest development in the Carleton Fossil Free Faculty’s (CFFF) push to move towards green investments. The CFFF is a special interest group within CUASA made up of 55 tenured professors from about 20 different faculties, who have been lobbying for this divestment over the past couple years, according to Lenore Fahrig, a Carleton professor and CUASA member.

“This is from our perspective, a pretty big success that the union has now passed this motion unanimously,” she said.

She said this is important if Carleton wants to more effectively combat climate change.

“In a major sense, it’s an ethical stance,” Fahrig said. “Having investments in these industries is essentially like betting that efforts to stop climate change will fail or betting almost in favour of failure.”

She said that maintaining their current investments could have negative economic consequences for the university’s pension fund.

“If governments do actually follow through on their commitments to reduce emissions . . . then these companies that extract fossil fuels, they’re going to have to leave approximately 80 per cent of their claimed reserves of fossil fuels undeveloped,” she said. “What that means is that they’re going to have stranded assets.”

That, she said, would translate to smaller returns on their pension fund portfolio as it stands.

The Pension Committee is a separate board from the administration that makes decisions concerning the pension fund for all Carleton employees who are eligible for a pension. The committee is made up of representatives from the Carleton administration and unions on campus whose members benefit from the fund.

Carleton is not the first post-secondary institution in Canada to divestment from fossil fuels, with the first challenge being launched by students at Université Laval a few weeks prior.

The major difference between these campaigns and the CFFF’s is that it focuses on the pension fund rather than the endowment fund, according to Fahrig.

“What [the CFFF] wants is for the pension fund to divest. The pension fund is generally much bigger than endowment funds,” she said.

Although the motion has been ratified by CUASA, the next phase of lobbying will involve a request for their two union representatives on the Carleton University Pension Committee to bring forward the same motion for ratification.

“I have invited our pension committee members to our next meeting so, that would obviously be a topic of conversation with them at that point.” she said. “There’s lots and lots of literature out there right now on how to do this . . . but we really don’t want to be overly prescriptive in telling them how they need to go about it.”

Fahrig said they would like to see these funds reinvested in Canadian renewables if possible, but she added this is more of a long-term goal as it is still a burgeoning industry.

The Charlatan reached out to the university for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.


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