MCGILL STUDENTS AND FACULTY APPEAL TO BOARD OF GOVERNORS ON FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT, LAUNCH DIRECT ACTION PLEDGE
Montreal, Quebec – April 15th, 2015
Today, members of the McGill community are presenting an appeal on their case for divestment from fossil fuel companies to members of the university’s Board of Governors.
In the two years that have passed since the original submission, the group has won the right to appeal with an updated 150+ page brief, a petition which has over 1700 signatures from McGill students, staff, faculty and alumni and a broad coalition of support from campus groups. These submissions were accompanied by an open letter signed by over a hundred faculty members, calling on the university to end investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies by estimated carbon reserves.
Today, two days after receiving a Catalyst Award for “Lessons Learned in Sustainability” from the university, the group is presenting to the McGill Board’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), which is responsible for ensuring that the university’s investments are ethical. The Committee and the Board to whom it reports have come under increasing pressure to take action on divestment as both on and off campus support for the worldwide divestment movement has soared.
This appeal, as well as the mobilization effort surrounding it, come at a time of growing global support for divestment. The past year has seen such notable institutions as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Stanford University take part in divestment. Most recently, The Guardian has committed to divesting its funds and has also launched a “Keep it in the Ground” campaign to encourage the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to end their investments in fossil fuel companies.
Having seen minimal progress by the Board even as they go through their official process a second time, Divest McGill plans to increase pressure on the University to act in the best interest of the community by using more creative actions than those already attempted. Since the movement is primarily fuelled by student energy and initiative, it is appropriate and important that the tools used to promote divestment speak to young people. Thus, to launch these new efforts, the group has released a humourous video chronicling their ongoing struggle to convince their university to act on climate change and stop investing in fossil fuel companies.
While this acts as a light-hearted accompaniment to the serious and official administrative submissions of Divest McGill, it also urges students and community members to take a direct action pledge. In the 3 days since its launch, almost 100 people have already pledged to take non-violent direct action in the Fall 2015 semester in the event of a second rejection or delay tactics from McGill’s Board, or to publicly stand with them if they commit to full divestment. Only time will tell how soon Divestment will be coming to McGill University!
Background: There is undeniable scientific evidence that we must leave 80% of our current fossil fuel reserves unburned in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. Despite this, fossil fuel companies have continued to extract and explore for new reserves, as well as work to undermine climate policies and action. Divest McGill advocates for fossil fuel divestment as a way to revoke the social license of the fossil fuel industry in order to bring about action on climate change, and is joined by over 700 campus campaigns worldwide. Since 2012, the group has built momentum on campus through open forums and creative actions, and has official support from all three major student unions at McGill University and many other on-campus groups, as well as over 1700 signatures from students, faculty, alumni and staff in the McGill community.
Kristen Perry – Divest McGill Organizer – firstname.lastname@example.org