On May 16, 2018, Senator Gregory Mikkelson, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and the McGill School of Environment, presented a motion to Senate to divest fossil fuel investment. The passing of this motion aligns the McGill’s investment policy to its Vision 2020 Sustainability Strategy plan (https://www.mcgill.ca/sustainability/files/sustainability/v2020_ss_eng.pdf), which aims to lay out a framework for achieving the highest possible standards of sustainability on our campuses. The motion advises the Board of Governors to divest endowment funding from all companies whose primary business is the extraction, distribution, and/or sale of fossil fuels, and from all mutual funds that invest in such companies.
The Executive Committee of the McGill University Non-Academic Staff Association (MUNASA) has been made aware of this motion and met with Senator Mikkelson and Governor Ehab Lotayef on March 14, 2019 to understand the facts on fossil fuel and its implication to McGill’s sustainability and growth beyond our campus:
The movement needs to be now: to stay below 1.5° to 2.0° C of global warming, production and consumption of fossil fuel must decrease dramatically (Nature 458:1158, https://climateclock.net). The longer we put off that decrease, the steeper, more catastrophic, more "disorderly" it will be, whether intentional in order to de-escalate the effects of said warming, or unintentional in the case of ecological and economic collapse.
Looking into the future: fossil fuel combustion already causes millions of premature human deaths annually (Lancet 391:462), and has depopulated thousands of species (WWF, Living Planet Report 2016). Projections of future harm runs into billions of lost human lives (Broome, Climate Matters), and into millions of premature extinction of species (Nature 427:125).
Institutional influence: research shows that campaigns of divestment by public institutions like McGill effectively induce governments to take stronger action, thus reducing the harm caused by offending companies (https://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/publications/reports/SAP-divestment-report-final.pdf). Divestment complements and contributes to, rather than competing with, other strategies for mitigating global warming, ocean acidification, air and water pollution, etc.
It makes sense to target the fossil fuel industry because it is among the most powerful in the world, and frequently uses that power to thwart the public interest in reducing global warming and to weaken other environmental laws, e.g., Canada's (www.cbc.ca/news/politics/energy-industry-letter-suggestedenvironmental-law-changes-1.1346258).
New industries on the horizon: McGill has many greener investment opportunities, switching to which might even lead to higher overall financial returns for the endowment (https://www.corporateknights.com/channels/responsible-investing/fossil-fuel-investments-cost-major-funds-billions-14476536)
Joining the network: when McGill divests from fossil fuel, we will join a distinguished and growing group of more than 100 universities worldwide, including Cambridge, Columbia, Laval, Oxford, and Stanford (https://gofossilfree.org/divestment/commitments), together as an international movement working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all.
Following the meeting, the Executive Committee of MUNASA reviewed the presented facts and its investment portfolio. MUNASA does not have any holdings with companies whose primary business is in the extraction, distribution and/or sale of fossil fuel, or any mutual funds that invest in such companies. The Executives of MUNASA has agreed to continuously maintain the portfolio in alignment to the Divest McGill movement, and will be in contact with the Senator Mikkelson and Governor Ehab Lotayef to have updated information on this movement.
The Executive Committee of MUNASA