The Varsity on fossil fuel divestment

2013-10-07

in Economics, Politics, Science, The environment, Toronto

In todays’ edition of The Varsity, there is an interview about the Toronto350.org divestment campaign at the University of Toronto.

In addition to quoting me and the Office of the President, it quotes Justin Lee, president of U of T’s Rational Capital Investment Fund, claiming that we are needlessly politicizing the issue of investment and implying that divestment would be bad for the portfolio. I wish he had read section 4 of the brief, in which we explain why divestment is a smart idea financially. These investments are not compatible with long-term prosperity for the world, since the business plans of these companies are focused on activities that would guarantee dangerous climate change. They are also incompatible with the long-term prosperity of the university itself, since the assumption that these companies will be able to burn all the fuel they own will eventually be invalidated.

Also, the fact that the university has a divestment policy in the first place shows that they understand how their investment choices do have ethical implications which are rightly a concern of the school. This isn’t a matter of needlessly politicizing university investment – it’s about bringing U of T’s investment policy in line with its values and long-term financial interest.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

alena October 10, 2013 at 11:32 am

It is great to generate a debate and there will always be opposing points of view. I think that many groups are now aware of the harm that fossil fuels shower on our earth, yet growth and employment steer them in the opposite direction. It does not make your arguments any less valid.

. March 3, 2014 at 9:42 pm

U of T must divest from fossil fuels, student groups say

Formal presentation to U of T president on March 6 will ask the university to divest

Pressure is mounting for U of T to divest from its holdings in fossil fuel companies. A local activism group called Toronto350, as well as many other prominent student groups, are calling on the university to pull all its direct stock holdings from fossil fuel companies. Activists say that the fossil fuel companies’ harmful environmental and social impacts give the university an ethical obligation to divest.

. March 3, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Toronto350 campaign neglects to consider U of T’s current dependence on fossil fuels

By Li Pan

Toronto350 campaign neglects to consider U of T’s current dependence on fossil fuels

The U of T Asset Management Corporation currently holds $9.8 million worth of shares in Royal Dutch Shell and $7.8 million worth in British Petroleum. Toronto350, an environmental activist organization, is calling on U of T to divest from the oil industry. I disagree.

The issue of divestment revolves around a few competing obligations for the university. We want to be a world leader in combatting climate change. At the same time, our university has a moral and legally binding fiduciary duty towards U of T staff and donors to maximize returns on investment made with their pension funds and donations. Furthermore, U of T is an academic institution and it should not be taking political stances. Toronto350 addresses these two concerns in its excellent brief, with copious amounts of supporting evidence. Nevertheless, I find their arguments unconvincing.

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