SSMU Supports Climate Justice

SSMU Supports Climate Justice

Dear McGill students,

McGill invests about $50 million dollars in the tar sands, fossil fuels, and Quebec’s Plan Nord.

SSMU believes that we need a rapid transition to a just, carbon-neutral economy. Continued investment in the companies that are polluting our earth and stealing the traditional territories of the First Nation, Métis, and Inuit peoples of Canada is unacceptable.

If you want to see McGill take this opportunity to be a moral beacon across North America and divest from the tar sands, fossil fuels, and the Plan Nord, we urge you to sign the petition calling on McGill to make the principled choice. The petitions are being circulated by Divest McGill, a group of students and alumni that has received the support of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society, the MacDonald Campus Students’ Society, many other campus labour and student unions, the over 1,100 people who have signed its petitions, and over 300 similar movements at colleges and universities across North America.

Please sign the petition and share it widely! If you want to get involved, indicate that on the petition when you sign it, or email pcc@ssmu.mcgill.ca.

We take this opportunity now to clarify some key elements of our Society’s plan and motivation.

What is divestment?

Divestment is when a person or organization chooses to sell its holdings—its stocks and bonds—in a specific company or set of companies, and to not make any future loans to that company or companies until some conditions are met.

SSMU is in the process of divesting from these three areas while reviewing the entirety of its investment decisions.

McGill divested in the past: in the 1980s, it fully divested from Apartheid South Africa, and since that time it divested from tobacco and Burma.

How does divestment work to promote climate justice?

We allow extractive industries to operate by giving them a social license and public incentives. Much of the fossil fuel industry would be unprofitable without government subsidies, let alone if they had to pay the full price of their environmental damage. 

Divestment will revoke these companies’ social license to operate without criticism, just as it did with tobacco companies. Divestment then made policies like label accuracy on tobacco products politically feasible.

Similarly, divestment now will make the policy changes needed for a rapid transition to a just, carbon-neutral economy politically feasible. The struggle also energizes students to fight climate change and re-orients universities around environmentalism and sustainability.

What is not included in divestment? 

Divestment does not mean ending research funding or job opportunities for students. It does not reduce services for students. It does not threaten the career opportunities of any student.

It also does not necessarily cost McGill any money. In fact, the Investments Manager of the University informed Divest McGill that that energy was the lowest performing sector for the last few years. 

What will SSMU do? 

SSMU passed a strong Divestment Action Plan, which includes the following mandates: to build a University-wide coalition for divestment; to work with the McGill Administration to promote divestment; to divest its own holdings; and to create an alternative investment case competition to engage students in creating a highly principled, high return investment strategy.

What is the progress so far?

Divest McGill is working with the Administration to promote divestment. The organization is taking the endorsements of the SSMU, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society, the MacDonald Campus Students’ Society—who collectively represent 100% of non-casual students at McGill—along with endorsements from other labour and student unions, campus environmental groups, and the over 1,100 signatures on its petitions to the Administration.

Divest McGill delivered its petitions, signatures, and Social Injury Briefs to a committee on divestment of the Board of Governors (the highest governing body of the University) on February 1st. 

That committee, the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility, asked Divest McGill to make its case next week, after which Divest McGill and SSMU will be a resource for the Committee as they make their recommendation to the full board.

We need action on climate justice now, before runaway global warming becomes inevitable.

If you agree, please sign the petition at divestmcgill.com.

If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, or if you are interested in getting involved, email pcc@ssmu.mcgill.ca.

Thank you for your support on this issue.