Letter to Kip Cobbett – Sep 21
Dear Mr. Kip Cobbett, Chair of the Board of Governors and Acting Chair of CAMSR,
Climate change has been part of the public consciousness for over three decades. When Divest McGill began our work three years ago, we catalyzed a conversation that others within McGill, or even the administration itself, could have begun well before this late hour. We’ve accepted from the beginning that we were starting a conversation long overdue.
The climate crisis is truly dire; we are far beyond the point where delay is acceptable or moral. We are taking action and camping in Community Square this week in the hope it will help you and other members of the administration recognize the urgent moral imperative for action. We hope you will see this week as an opportunity to stand on the right side of history.
Specifically, we request that you, as Chair of the Board and Acting Chair of CAMSR, take a public stance on freezing fossil fuel investments and bring a motion to the Board to that effect. We believe a freeze is appropriate because it would rebuild trust (which has been eroded by a lack of collaboration and the failure to remediate important errors that were identified).
Divest McGill and CAMSR both committed to being partners in this process, but we feel that the committee has not been affording us the opportunity to help it move towards an informed decision. As we reiterated to CAMSR in our most recent letter, we have serious concerns with the committee’s process to date. The six month timeline proposed with our second submission has nearly elapsed, and unfortunately the committee has provided us with no evidence that it is any closer to a ruling on social injury. This is despite it having met a full five times during that six month period and having received multiple requests for a transparent process from Divest McGill and McGill Faculty and Librarians for Divestment. We are also concerned about the two procedural missteps by CAMSR outlined in the recent letters from professors Janda, Nystrom and Barney (the failure to rule first and foremost on the question of social injury, and the contravention of the committee’s terms of reference in pursuing a Royal Society study). We believe these have led to significant delay. We understand that mistakes happen, but we are especially alarmed by the committee’s failure to take remedial action after being made aware of them.
We feel strongly that the time has come for the administration to address these shortcomings in a way that goes beyond discussion and deliberation. We expressed this in our most recent letter, in which we asked the committee to immediately freeze new investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies by reserve size while it moves toward a ruling on social injury. Responding to our letter, Mr. Strople, secretary of CAMSR, called a freeze “a matter for discussion by CAMSR which will next meet in October.” We understand your need for deliberation on social injury and full divestment, and also hold that it would be entirely appropriate for you, Mr. Kip Cobbett, as Chair of the Board of Governors and Acting Chair of CAMSR, to take certain actions immediately. Others could reasonably be taken within the next month.
While CAMSR continues its thoughtful reflections, we respectfully request that you take a public stance for an immediate freeze on new investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies for the duration of CAMSR’s deliberations. We understand that a freeze is not your personal decision to make, but your public stance on the matter is.
An immediate freeze in new fossil fuel investments for the duration of deliberations is an appropriate and sober response to the financial, material, and reputational hazard, as well as to the deeply harmful practices of these companies. Additionally, the McGill community needs a clear signal–ones that goes beyond mere words–that CAMSR is willing to take concrete action on the issue.
After freezing investments, we respectfully request CAMSR’s next step be to make a preliminary decision on social injury for Shell, whose powerful lobbyists have it poised to drill for unburnable carbon in the Arctic, by the end of October. CAMSR is currently placing McGill in a morally precarious position by continuing to draw out its deliberation and failing to act on the issue. We hope that breaking the process down into concrete, achievable steps will help CAMSR counteract this, at least to a degree. While we understand the need to come to a thoughtful decision, delay contradicts the climate science and creates complicity. We’re not saying this situation is easy—only that it is urgent.
As Chair of the Board and Acting Chair of CAMSR, you have a unique opportunity and responsibility to ensure that the university acts swiftly and meaningfully on the urgent questions of the day. The climate crisis is a defining issue of our time, and Divest McGill sincerely hopes that McGill will see it as an opportunity to live up to its values and mission by setting an example for climate action among Canadian Universities. We feel strongly that as Chair of the Board, your voice could and should be instrumental in bringing this about.
If you have any questions about our request, we would be glad to meet with you for further discussion at any point during this week.