Queen’s environmental group talks fossil fuel divestment

Student activist group invited to present at final meeting of University's committee on divestment options

QBACC stands in front of their banner after their demonstration in the ARC
Following the submission of an official statement of concern to Board of Trustees, members of QBACC held a demonstration in the ARC on Feb. 12.

The Advisory Committee on Divestment of Fossil Fuels held its final feedback meeting on Thursday, Sept. 17, moving them closer to finalizing a report on divestment at Queen’s.

The committee has held four consultation dates open for submissions from concerned individuals, with its final meeting taking place this past Thursday, Sept. 17.

All stakeholders, including students, alumni and community members, were invited to present their views and recommendations to the committee on whether Queen’s should divest its non-pension investments from companies engaged in the fossil fuel industry.

Principal Daniel Woolf assembled the committee — as mandated under the University’s Statement on Responsible Investing (SRI) — following an initial statement of concern lodged by the Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change (QBACC) student group.

The committee will report back to the Board of Trustees, one of the University’s three governing bodies, focused on University financials, around the end of September.

QBACC co-chair Leah Kelley says she’s impressed by the number of people who’ve shown support for the University to divest from fossil fuel.

According to Kelley, ArtSci ’17, QBACC was invited to two out of four Advisory Committee meetings.

At the first, which took place over the summer, the committee members outlined the procedures of the Advisory Committee to Kelley.

“They emphasized the importance of student and alumni input,” she said. QBACC was again invited to formally present their views at the final meeting on Sept. 17.

At the final Advisory Committee meeting, QBACC emphasized the social injuries caused by fossil fuel companies. So far, QBACC has focused on the impact on Indigenous populations, effects on developing countries, links to global conflict and the health risks accompanying climate change as part of their advocacy. 

For Kelley, choosing not to divest would be hypocritical for the university. She cited significant resources that have gone towards encouraging careers in environmental studies and the research conducted by Queen’s professors in the mitigation of climate change.

“To then invest funding into the industry that encourages and exacerbates the effects of climate change is therefore hypocritical.”

The Journal’s request to attend the Sept. 17 meeting was denied by Anne Martineau, a member of the Advisory Committee, as “some of the content of people's presentations included personal and political views which they would rather not have disclosed to those outside the committee.”

The Advisory Committee is set to conclude its discussions by the end of the month. They will then make their recommendation to Principal Woolf, who will then bring their report to the Board of Trustees.

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