UofT Faculty Association endorses Fossil Fuel Divestment

For immediate release - May 26th, 2014

Toronto, Canada — May 26, 2014 – The University of Toronto Faculty Association has voted to endorse a fossil fuel divestment campaign

At their annual general meeting on April 23rd, 2014, the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) voted strongly in favour of endorsing Toronto350.org’s ongoing campaign calling on the university to sell its stock in the world’s 200 largest fossil fuel companies.

In a letter to President Gertler, Scott Prudham, President of the Faculty Assocition, explained that:

“[W]e are persuaded that the University of Toronto would be making a welcome, bold, honourable, and courageous move in taking steps toward divestment, including, for example, to divest 100 percent of its shares in Royal Dutch Shell as per the Toronto350.org brief... Such an action would be regarded as a major event on both symbolic and material grounds in the growing, albeit increasingly University of Toronto Faculty Association endorses fossil fuel divestment desperate, campaign to halt the rise in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The regard and reputation of this University can only benefit from such a far-seeing and enlightened decision.”

Dr. Prudham also explains how the university’s fossil fuel investments contradict the “resolute commitment to the principles of equal opportunity, equity and justice” included in U of T’s Statement of Institutional Purpose. Read the full text of his letter.

The University of Toronto has decided in the past to divest from tobacco companies and from firms associated with apartheid in South Africa. U of T has an established divestment process which Toronto350.org has been following, including by producing a detailed brief which makes the financial and ethical case for divestment. Check out the entire brief.

Now that the brief has been formally presented to President Gertler, he has announced his intention to form an ad hoc committee which will consider the case for divestment and provide him with a recommendation. President Gertler’s decision will then be either upheld or overturned by U of T’s Governing Council.

Background on divestment

This is part of a broader campaign which is active at more than 300 universities across North America, along with private foundations, municipalities, and churches. The campaign argues not only that the direct actions of fossil fuel companies are worsening climate change, but that maintaining a safe planet for humanity requires restricting the total quantity of fossil fuels that can be burned. The business plans and stockmarket values of these companies depend on the assumption that these fuels will be burned, so their stocks are greatly overvalued in the event the world succeeds in avoiding dangerous climate change.

Many institutions have already committed to divest. These include 12 colleges and universities. On May 6th, 2014 Stanford committed to divesting its $18.7 billion dollar endowment from coal. 26 municipalities have also committed to fossil fuel divestment. An up-to-date list is available at: http://gofossilfree.org/commitments/

In addition to the University of Toronto Faculty Association, the divestment campaign has been endorsed by the graduate and undergraduate student unions and prominent alumni. A complete list can be found here.