What is Divest Concordia?
Divest Concordia was formed in the summer of 2013 as part of the global divestment campaign – the fastest growing movement of its kind in history . Our aims are to pressure the university into removing its investments in fossil fuels companies – and reinvest them responsibly – as a tactic to stigmatize the industry most responsible for climate change. Our campaign has many different fronts; from our social media outreach, to our grassroots mobilization, to our dialogue with the administrators responsible for Concordia’s endowment. Regular meetings are held at 3:30PM every Friday at 2090 Mackay (Sustainable Concordia’s board room), the rest of the time our work is divided into several sub-committees assigned to particular roles. We are non-hierarchical in structure, and we are always welcoming new members! If you’re interested in becoming involved check out our contact tab.
What is wrong with Concordia’s investments?
Financial investing can be approached responsibly or irresponsibly. Irresponsibly investing would be putting money into something that produces a negative social or environmental outcome; whether or not you make a short-term monetary profit. Our objective is to help Concordia make the transition from irresponsible to responsible investing, focusing on divesting from the fossil fuel extraction and processing industries, among others. While investors can make a short-term profit by investing in the fossil fuel industry, the impacts this industry has on our environment and the climate produces outcomes that far outweigh the short term gains.
Concordia University has investments worth over $100 million and how they invest this money reflects on Concordia’s community and its reputation. According to a publicly available 2011 financial audit of its endowment, Concordia had substantial investments in oil, gas and pipelines worth over ten million dollars. Unfortunately, a draft of the most recent financial audit recently made available by the University to Divest Concordia does not specify whether Concordia has investments in fossil fuels, largely because the university decided to change the category of Oil and Gas into Energy, and then transferred away responsibility for much of their investments to third-party investors who are not obliged to disclose information about where and how they are investing the University’s money. This could create the illusion of divestment, and hides the fossil fuel investments from public scrutiny.
How bad are Fossil Fuels?
If we are to agree with what the scientists say on the issue of climate change, there is a 95% certainty that human produced greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of recent the global warming that has been recorded since the industrial revolution. Scientists are as certain on this issue as they are on cigarette smoking as a cause of death. The primary source of greenhouse gas emissions is the burning of fossil fuels, namely coal, oil and gas. In fact, we know that about half of human produced greenhouse gas emissions are caused by just 90 companies, the vast majority of these companies being fossil fuel producers. Unfortunately, time is running short to act on climate change. It is widely accepted that in order to prevent catastrophic outcomes, we must not breach a 2°C rise above pre-industrial levels in global mean temperature. This is what governments, including Canada, intended on doing when they signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, since then we have seen annual rates of greenhouse gas emissions go up, and oil and gas production continue unabated.
What’s our government doing about it?
Canada is both the first and only country to completely withdraw from the Kyoto protocol. At the moment, we are currently witnessing the limitations of our Parliamentary system in dealing with climate change, as weak lobbying and ethics rules have allowed the fossil fuel industry to effectively control Canada’s climate policy. The sad reality is, Canada, which used to be seen as a leader in international diplomacy, has lost that status and is now seen as an obstacle to meaningful action on one of the most important issues of our time, all in the name of protecting the interests of fossil fuel companies. We are also witnessing a massive domestic public relations campaign launched by the fossil fuel industry to dispel the science behind global warming and confuse Canadians on the issue.
The practices of this harmful industry must stop, and soon. It is estimated that we could breach the 2°C mark within the next few decades and even go as high as 6°C by the end of this century according to the World Bank . Drastic changes are going to be required in the near future and an inevitable and necessary change is to move away from fossil fuel. Fortunately, public opinion is siding against the fossil fuel industry and the majority of Canadians are demanding the government to take action on climate change . It is destined to be an uphill battle, however, as the industry has an army of lobbyists and lawyers working full time to sway politicians.
Over 1500 Concordia students have signed a petition putting the question of supporting fossil fuels divestment to ballot for the student body. Join the campaign and let’s work together to get Concordia to divest!
What are we at Concordia doing about it?
Divest Concordia is trying to get the university to take a real stand on climate change. This would be done through divestment of fossil fuels and a public statement calling on other Universities to do the same. There are over 300 campuses across North America working on divestment campaigns. If even half those Universities and colleges took a stand, the message will be a powerful one and reverberate throughout society. If you’d like more information on the campaign, wish to get involved, or want to signup to our weekly informative newsletter, contact us.