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.”



The committee’s recommendation targets fossil fuel companies that pursue “non-conventional or aggressive extraction,” “distort science or public policy,” or “derive more than 10% of their revenue from coal.” “These criteria particularly implicate companies involved in the tar sands, fracking, Arctic oil exploration, and disseminating misinformation,” Suhail Barot, a 3rd year Ph.D student in engineering commented. “The very business model of the fossil fuel industry contradicts limiting global warming to below 1.5℃. President Gertler should now divest from all fossil fuel companies.”


President Gertler should also take action for communities who are harmed by climate change and fossil fuel extraction. These communities are not sufficiently recognized in the committee’s recommendation. The recommendation fails to acknowledge that fossil fuel companies who violate Indigenous peoples’ right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent commit social injury. President Gertler should stand up for impacted communities by divesting from all fossil fuels.


This recommendation is a huge achievement for the fossil fuel divestment movement globally and in Canada. It contradicts previous decisions at Dalhousie and Trent University to not divest from fossil fuels. Canada currently has over 30 fossil fuel divestment campaigns. More universities and institutional investors are now expected to follow UofT’s lead. This recommendation sends a strong signal that the Trudeau Government must take bolder action on climate change and commit to keeping fossil fuels in the ground.


Committee Recommendation Highlights

  • “The Committee acknowledges that all companies in the fossil fuels industry engage in activities that, to some degree, are socially injurious by their very nature.” Pg 3.

  • "It is our view that fossil fuels firms engaging in activities that blatantly disregard the 1.5-degree threshold are engaging egregiously in socially injurious behaviour that is irreconcilable with internationally agreed limits to the rise in average global temperatures and thereby greatly increasing the likelihood of catastrophic global consequences. The University should, in a targeted and principled manner, divest from its direct holdings in such firms." Pg 12.

  • The Committee identifies ConocoPhillips Co.,  ExxonMobil Corp., Peabody Energy Corporation, Arch Coal Inc., Alpha Natural Resources LLC, Cloud Peak Energy, and Westmoreland Coal Company as examples of companies that meet their criteria for fossil fuel divestment. Pg 3-4.


Quotes from the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign

“Indigenous communities, through resistance over many centuries, have made the success of this recommendation possible.”

Joanna Dowdell, 4th Year Biology and Environmental Health Student at UofT

"This strong recommendation adds a nail to the coffin of fossil fuel megaprojects like the Energy East and Northern Gateway pipelines which cannot be reconciled with keeping warming under 1.5 ˚C."

Milan Ilnyckyj, 4th Year PhD Candidate in Political Science at UofT

“A critical mass of the public now rejects any investments in fossil fuels. Wise investors should get out while they still can.”

Lila Asher, 2nd Year Environmental Studies at UofT

Acknowledging the fossil fuel industry’s harm is especially timely after the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report. If Canadian institutions are serious about a process of reconciliation, a real first step can be cutting ties with fossil fuel companies directly tied to modern manifestations of colonialism.”

Keara Lightning, UofT Alumna and Toronto 350 Board Member


An expanded list of institutions committed to fossil fuel divestment can be accessed here. Creative Commons licensed photos from two divestment marches are hereand here


Media Contacts:

  • Amanda Harvey Sanchez, Second Year Environmental Studies Student, 647-267-9838

  • Sam Harrison, Second Year Engineering Student, 778-928-4923