UWinnipeg creates green investment fund, faces criticism from students

Reposted from: The Academica Group. Originally posted on June 30, 2016

Representatives from the student group Divest UWinnipeg have criticized the school’s decision to pursue strategic alternatives to a full divestment from fossil fuels. The university has been consulting with the group for the past year. The group has asked the University of Winnipeg Foundation and pension board of trustees to end all investments in stocks and bonds of fossil fuel companies. This Monday, the school’s board of regents asked the foundation to instead create a responsible investment policy that applies environmental, social, and governance criteria. “The U of W’s choice not to divest from fossil fuels represents a contradiction with its commitments to sustainability, Indigenization and, ultimately, reconciliation,” said UWinnipeg Student Association Preisdent Kevin Settee. UWinnipeg Senior Executive Officer Chris Minaker responded that the school “has adopted a balanced approach to the divestment issue which is consistent with actions taken by other universities in Canada.”

uWinnipeg Student, Faculty Associations call for fossil fuel divestment

Reposted from Academica Top Ten (http://academica.ca/toptenOriginally published March 10th, 2016

The Student and Faculty Associations at the University of Winnipeg have asked the school to withdraw all of its investments in fossil fuels. The request applies specifically to fossil fuel stocks currently included in the portfolios of the University of Winnipeg Foundation and the school’s pension fund. The university reportedly has almost $2.6 M, or 5% of its foundation endowment invested in oil, gas, or coal industries, while the value of such investments contained in the pension fund is unknown. A public forum involving representatives from the community, the faculty, and the student body was held at the school yesterday to discuss the current and future direction of the divestment movement.

UBC rejects divestment proposal, proposes $10 M sustainability fund

Reposted from Academia.edu. Originally published February 5, 2016

The University of British Columbia has reportedly proposed a $10 M sustainability fund instead of divesting from fossil fuel companies, despite last year’s majority vote by both UBC students and faculty in favour of fossil fuel divestment. The decision was frustrating, said UBCC350 Co-ordinator and UBC student Alex Hemingway, “what we’ve seen at UBC is two decisive referendum votes from faculty and staff in favour of divestment that the committee has chosen to ignore.” UBC Vice-president of External Relations and Communications Philip Steenkamp released a statement saying that the finance committee had concluded that divestment may not have its desired impact on climate change or corporate behaviour, and “would not be consistent with the board’s fiduciary obligation to endowment donors.” The board of governors will reportedly vote on the proposal on February 15th.

 

Smoke & Mirrors: The New Ethos of Fossil Fuel Divestment

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Smoke & Mirrors: The New Ethos of Fossil Fuel Divestment

Maya Stewart

The stage was set. As I sat at the back of Carleton University’s cramped English lounge, I observed the nervous anticipation that filled the space around me. Perhaps no one had expected such a large turnout. It seemed somewhat amusing, the ritualistic nature of the movements within the room. Strangers all around me were shaking hands and uttering small talk in hushed whispers, trying not to disturb the sanctity within the room. A show seemed like it was about to begin.

And then, the curtains fell back with a “swoosh”, and it had suddenly begun. The moderator emerged, Sara Collins, a PhD student in the Department of Biology, to present to us with the reason for our gathering. Only the occasional sound of shifting of limbs, now: a hand rubbing a jaw, a back shifting straight to get a better view. All of our eyes were set on the speakers before us, as if waiting for the wisdom of prophets and deities.

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“Scientists have done the math…” The moderator began her speech. She spoke eloquently, straightforward and clear. Her speech was the materialization of the scientific method, I thought. She told us what we were all aware of, the reason why we had gathered: that everything has been calculated, measured, and weighed. The facts stand as plain as day. The numbers can’t be denied. There is no need to flourish it: carbon emission is a problem. A big part of that problem is fossil fuels. So, how does divestment from companies that exploit fossil fuels fit into that picture? What does divestment do for environmental activism? The moderator seemed to hear this unasked question. She ended her speech just as she had started it: “It simply means getting rid of . . . ”

For some reason, I can’t remember how she finished that sentence. But that is okay. That was our question anyway, tossed to us like a kid who’d gotten lost on the way to Grandma’s house. “Divestment simply means getting rid of what?” My head turned from the moderator to the audience members, who all turned expectantly towards the four speakers before us. It was like everyone was silently asking, “What do we do with it? Where should it go? It’s not my kid, you know.”

The topic that had drawn us all in was quite clearly on divesting from fossil fuels. But the real argument amongst the speakers would actually become, “What is the goal of divestment?” As the first speaker was cued for her spot in the limelight, I realized the “play” had begun. How would it end?

Her name was Bilan Arte, the Deputy Chair of the Canadian Federation of Students. She spoke largely about the impacts of environmental activism on campus, and about divestment as a tool for social change, how education and the divestment of fossil fuels could be used like a beacon of change to gather both the student body and the public alike, in the name of “environmental justice.” The ultimate aim would be to freeze accounts associated with private organizations involved with fossil fuels, to divest, and to invest in renewable resources. Her point was that, as she aptly claimed, “The goal is to have the institution divest.”

But, what is the true goal of divestment? This was the question of focus in the next speaker’s speech. His name was Michael Bueckert, PhD Candidate for the Department of Sociology and Political Economy. He introduced an analytical analysis of the effectiveness (or rather, the lack thereof) of divestment. “In economic terms,” he said, “divestment is really irrelevant”. He spoke about the difference between corporate investment and personal intent, and that public divestment in the stock market could have unpredictable consequences. In the end, Michael argued that ethical investment “is really tricky,” that the primary goal of the divestment movement is symbolic, and that divestment is ultimately not a solution to the fossil fuel problem.

The third speaker, Lenore Fahrig, a faculty in the Department of Biology, spoke of the ultimate consequences of fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions that will plague us in the near future if we do not quickly desist. She claimed that the people’s voices combined with green energy investment and conservation will create change. In contrast to Michael’s speech, she called for the necessity of rapid divestment, as the solution to the serious issue of climate change.

The fourth speaker, Kevin Skerrett, a CUPE research officer, spoke of the seven constraints on shareholders and investor activism. While he claimed to be sympathetic to Lenore’s argument, he agreed with Michael in saying that divestment is at the end of the day ineffective. He believed that the ultimate goal is to get fossil fuel companies to move away from fossil fuels, and to change corporate behavior. But this would call for a change in the very way our economy functions, as the political sphere is becoming increasingly dominated by private sectors.

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The conversation and questions that arose in the questions section of the roundtable reflected the discord that existed amongst the speakers. I could not help reflect on the difference between the beginning and the end of our conversation. As we left the room, there seemed to be a complete and utter lack of consensus as to what to do – is divestment a fruitful pursuit, or are its trees barren for want of effect? What is the goal? The conclusion of our roundtable seemed to be that the discussion was not nearly that simple, and that the solution was as complex as the problem. It stood in start contrast to the simplicity and clarity of the moderator’s opening speech. I still wish I could remember what she had said. That would be the answer, would it not? So, we must keep asking hard questions, until we find the right answers. Once more: “It simply means getting rid of . . . ” what?

Maya Stewart is currently a third-year undergraduate student of English and Philosophy at Carleton University. Her writing has been published in various places, including Anthem Little Mag and Carleton University’s Learning Log.

Perspectives on Fossil Fuel Divestment

The Carleton Working Group on Climate Change

invites you to attend 

Perspectives on Fossil Fuel Divestment:

A Roundtable

Can we have an impact on climate change by divesting from oil companies? Our speakers will explore this question from a range of perspectives and then open the floor to discussion.

Speakers:

Bilan Arte (Deputy Chair, Canadian Federation of Students)

Michael Bueckert (PhD Candidate, Dept of Sociology and Political Economy)

Lenore Fahrig (Faculty, Dept of Biology)

Kevin Skerrett (CUPE Research Officer [Pensions])

Moderator: Rebecca Schein (Human Rights)

Thursday 5 March, 3 – 5pm

Gordon Wood Lounge

1811 Dunton Tower

Everyone is welcome!

For more information please contact: climatecommons@carleton.ca