U of T President Meric Gertler rejects fossil fuel divestment

Back in December, an expert committee appointed by President Gertler recommended divestment from fossil fuel companies based on a range of criteria.

Today, that approach was rejected by President Gertler, who proposed instead a vague eventual screening of investments based on “environmental, social, and governance” factors.

Toronto350.org has a press release, and is working on a broader response.

Between the committee’s recommendation and the president’s decision, we issued a Community Response, which is essentially not addressed in the president’s decision.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

20 thoughts on “U of T President Meric Gertler rejects fossil fuel divestment”

  1. I am very sad to hear about President Gertler’s decision on divestment. The University had an opportunity to be a leader in the fight against catastrophic global warming. I am certain that this is only the beginning of a movement that will not go away and you and your colleagues have started the dialogue in a most compelling way. The Ad hoc committee clearly agreed with you. It takes dedication and courage to do what you do.

  2. The hard and sustained work of you and your colleagues resulted in the University being forced to deal with the issue. I know how hard and persistently you and your colleagues worked on this issue. The result of the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendation was and remains a considerable success. The presidents watering down those recommendations into a factor to consider is disappointing. Well done for achieving what you and your colleagues have achieved.

  3. Western oil companies have struggled through the crisis with a new cross to bear as concerns about global warming become mainstream. In America the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York attorney-general’s office are investigating ExxonMobil, the world’s largest private oil company, over whether it has fully disclosed the risks that measures to mitigate climate change could pose to its vast reserves. Shareholders in both America and Europe are putting tremendous pressure on oil companies to explain how they would manage their businesses if climate-change regulation forced the world to wean itself off oil. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has given warning that the energy transition could put severe strains on financial stability, and that up to 80% of fossil-fuel reserves could be stranded. The oil industry’s rallying cry, “Drill, baby, drill!” now meets a shrill response: “Keep it in the ground!”

  4. Announcing the Committee on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability

    The University of Toronto community responded with enthusiasm to our recent Call for Nominations – Committee on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability. The creation of this Committee was one of the key recommendations in the Administrative Response to the Report of the President’s Advisory Committee on Divestment from Fossil Fuels. Its mandate is to identify ways to advance the University’s contribution to meeting the challenge of climate change and sustainability, with a particular focus on research and innovation, teaching, and University operations. The Committee’s activities may include facilitating the sharing among divisions of best practices in operational sustainability and related academic initiatives; highlighting opportunities to strengthen further the University’s support for faculty and divisional initiatives in relevant fields; organizing University-wide events to promote sustainability-related research, teaching, and outreach; and raising the profile of the University’s contributions both within and outside our academic community.

  5. UTAM receives top marks by UN-supported organization for responsible investing practices

    The University of Toronto Asset Management Corp., or UTAM, which manages nearly $10 billion in pension, endowment and other funds on behalf of the university, has received top marks from the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) organization for its responsible investing practices.

    In its 2018 assessment report of U of T’s pension and endowment funds, the PRI awarded UTAM four “A+” scores and one “A” for its efforts to incorporate responsible investing principles into its investment processes.

    The grades placed UTAM ahead of the median performance of nearly 1,500 institutions around the world that have signed on to the PRI initiative.

    Daren Smith, the president and chief investment officer of UTAM, said the assessment demonstrates UTAM is off to a good start when it comes to making investment decisions with environmental, social and governmental factors in mind.

  6. “The University of Toronto offers case in point. In their attempts to have their institution divest from fossil fuel companies, student organizers and supporting members of UofT350 drafted a 230-page “brief” that addressed relevant administrative policies and procedures, and responded directly to questions posed by the ad hoc committee charged with investigating the matter. However, even after the president’s own advisory committee recommended targeted divestment from firms disregarding the international effort to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming, President Gertler largely dismissed their expert recommendation — opting instead to create four additional “working groups” comprised of senior administrative staff.

  7. U of T accelerates emissions reduction efforts with new Low-Carbon Action Plan

    Over five years, the Low-Carbon Action Plan is predicted to curb emissions, measured using a carbon dioxide equivalency, by 44,567 tonnes, bringing U of T 80 per cent closer to its 2030 target by the year 2024

    The action plan notes that U of T emitted nearly 117,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 1990. To achieve a 37 per cent reduction from that figure by 2030, annual emissions would need to be lowered to below 73,684 tonnes.

    Such a drastic drop in emissions would represent no small feat given that U of T’s three campuses comprise 266 buildings, with many buildings on the St. George campus over 80 years old and requiring more energy to run than newer structures. Indeed, the St. George campus represents 83 per cent of the university’s emissions.

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