University of Toronto on Track for Largest Fossil Fuel Divestment to Date in Canada

December 16, 2015 | For Immediate Release

University of Toronto on Track for Largest Fossil Fuel Divestment to Date in Canada

Presidential Committee Recommends Divesting From Fossil Fuels Companies Who Will Warm the Planet by more than 1.5 ℃

 

Toronto, ON -A University of Toronto Committee just recommended immediate targeted divestment from fossil fuel companies whose activities “disregard a 1.5-degree threshold” of global warming. UofT is now poised to be the largest Canadian university to commit to divesting from most fossil fuel companies. The University of Toronto fossil fuel divestment campaign welcomes the Committee’s opinion that “the social injury caused by fossil fuels companies whose actions blatantly disregard the 1.5-degree threshold is clear, egregious, and inordinate.” Jade Wong, a student organizer commented on this saying, “this decision reinforces the Paris Climate Agreement’s implication that the era of fossil fuels is over.”

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200+ University of Toronto Professors Call for Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry, Students March on Campus

For your immediate release, October 27th, 2015:

200+ University of Toronto Professors Call for Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry, Students March on Campus

Toronto, ON--More than 200 University of Toronto faculty members have signed an open letter urging the University to drop all of its direct stock holdings in coal, oil, and gas. Professors from dozens of departments, from engineering to anthropology, signed the open letter, available at UofTfacultydivest.com. A recommendation on divestment will be made to the U of T administration by an advisory committee this December, close to the time when UBC is expected to decide.

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Mulcair's Mistake Last Night

 


Last night, Thomas Mulcair told Canadian voters that the Energy East pipeline could be a “win, win, win” scenario. A win for the economy, a win for the environment, and a win for the climate.

Today, Toronto350 activists attended an NDP rally to make sure that the Honourable Leader of the Opposition understands that we do not agree.

Ex-Quebec Minister of the Environment, Mr. Mulcair said that the way forward was to fix the environmental assessment process and the National Energy Board. Our volunteers went to his rally in Toronto to ask a simple question – how?

How would he undo the damage done to the integrity of the Energy Board?

How would these improvements change the fact that building and running pipelines is inherently dangerous to the environment, increases our dependence on oil, and pumps even more carbon into our fragile atmosphere?

How could the 35% increase in tar sands extraction Energy East would facilitate be compatible with climate action?

Unfortunately, rather than engage our activists, the NDP had them removed from the rally.

The NDP's position baffles more people than us. They oppose Northern Gateway, they oppose Keystone XL. Energy East faces all the same problems but is a far bigger pipeline. It would stop the NDP from fulfilling the Climate Change Accountability Act if elected.

The Liberals are just as bad. Trudeau promised a "fixed" Energy Board would move resources to market. Trudeau promised to secure the oil industry Energy East.

We join millions of other Canadians in again urging all political parties to reconsider their positions on pipelines, which are a lose, lose, lose scenario. Throwing out dissenters is not the Canadian way and not how we will solve the most pressing issue of our generation.



How many must resist to change the system?

In his 2015 book Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, journalist Chris Hedges describes the research of two academics who have investigated the determinants of success for rebellious movements. He writes:

"Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth examine 100 years of violent and nonviolent resistance movements in their 2008 article "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict." They conclude that nonviolent movements succeed twice as often as violent uprisings. Nonviolent movements appeal to those employed within the power structure, especially the police and civil servants, who are cognizant of the corruption and decadence of the power elite and are willing to abandon them. And, the authors point out, with as little as 3.5 percent of the population who are organized and disciplined, it is possible to bring down even the most ruthless totalitarian structures." (p. 84)

As far as I can tell, the claim about 3.5 percent of the population doesn't come from that paper, but from Erica Chenoweth's 2013 TEDxBoulder talk: "The success of nonviolent civil resistance" (See also: "Peaceful protest is much more effective than violence for toppling dictators").

Regardless of the precise source, there's an appealing symmetry to that 3.5% figure, when placed alongside the conviction that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 must be kept below 350 parts per million (ppm) if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Three and a half percent means three and a half per hundred. Three and a half per hundred is the same as thirty five thousand per million, since one million is ten thousand times one hundred. If Stephan and Chenoweth are right, achieving 350 parts per million in the atmosphere may require 35,000 active people per million.

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Toronto350.org joins broad coalition of groups at the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate

Toronto, Ontario – Today, three days of historic climate action in Canada culminated in the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate from Queen’s Park to Allan Gardens in downtown Toronto. The march was an unprecedented mobilization in Canada, bringing together a broad coalition of groups all marching for a justice-based transition towards a green economy.

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Climate activists protest outside Enbridge's Annual General Meeting

Protesters hold anti tar sands bannersToronto, Ontario – This afternoon at 1:30pm, various climate action and First Nations groups including Toronto350.org gathered outside the Four Seasons Hotel holding anti-pipeline banners for Enbridge’s annual general meeting. 

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Presentations to U of T committee

All four presentations made by Toronto350.org organizers to the fossil fuel divestment committee at U of T are now online. This version includes links to the relevant sections in the brief, to corroborate the claims in the presentations.

The presentations provide a good overall argument for why divestment from fossil fuel companies is ethical and financially prudent.


The financial case for fossil fuel divestment

There is a widespread assumption that divestment is a matter of sacrificing financial security in order to uphold an ethical position. In the case of fossil fuel corporations, this characterization is inaccurate. These have been underperforming investments, and the companies face major risks to their performance going forward. The source of the social injury described in chapter 2 of the brief – the massive reserves of coal, oil, and gas which these companies possess – are also the source of this financial risk. That risk arises, firstly, from the reality that governments are increasingly restricting the right to use the atmosphere as a dump for carbon pollution and, secondly, from the increasingly extreme character of fossil fuel energy development. As Shell's mishaps with arctic drilling and BP's destruction in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrate, fossil fuel corporations are seeking out ever-more-expensive and ever-more-dangerous ways of sustaining and enlarging their reserves. In 2012, the top 200 oil and gas companies spent $674 billion on exploration and development of new reserves – reserves which are at risk of becoming stranded assets in a carbon-constrained future.

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Toronto350.org rallies community members in block parties to oppose Energy East pipeline

Toronto350 members gather for a group photo with balloons and giant orange x symbolizing divestment from fossil fuels. Toronto, Ontario – Sunday April 12th and Monday April 13th 2015 – This afternoon from 2-4pm climate action organization Toronto350.org hosted a Block Energy East block party outside MP Adam Vaughan’s office. This event happened on the heels of the April 11th Act on Climate Rally in Quebec City and it is not over yet! Another block party is scheduled to occur tomorrow outside MP Chrystia Freeland’s office at 1027 Young Street from 4-6pm. 

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An Open Letter to Glen Murray on Ontario's Climate Strategy

This letter was sent to the Honourable Glen Murray, Ontario's Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, on March 28, 2015. It is signed by Stuart Basden, President of Toronto350.org, on behalf of Toronto350.org's membership. The letter is in response to Ontario's Climate Change Discussion Paper, which invited feedback from all sectors and all Ontarians. 

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