Queen’s votes not to divest from fossil fuels

Board of Trustees’ Investment Committee states that there are no grounds for divestment

Executive members of QBACC, Mac Fitzgerald (left) and Leah Kelley (right).
Executive members of QBACC, Mac Fitzgerald (left) and Leah Kelley (right).
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Queen’s Board of Trustees’ Investment Committee announced on Nov. 6 that they will not be divesting Queen’s funds from fossil fuels.

The decision comes roughly a year after Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change (QBACC), a student environmental activist group, submitted a petition to Principal Woolf and the Board of Trustees to divest based on the social injury caused by fossil fuel companies. 

Following the submission from QBACC in December 2014, Principal Woolf formed the Advisory Committee on Divestment of Fossil Fuels. He tasked the committee with the responsibility of drafting a report to the Investment Committee to determine if there were grounds for divestment based on social injury.

The Advisory Committee on Divestment has concluded four consultation dates — the last one in September — where the public was invited to share their opinion on the matter. 

Ultimately, the advisory committee’s report stated that Queen’s had no grounds for divestment based on their Statement on Responsible Investing policy. 

The committee’s report comes to three conclusions: that there are “interpretative difficulties associated with the term “social injury”, that divestment is an “ineffective tool for Queen’s to use in addressing issues associated with climate change” and that other forms of engagement “hold more promise for Queen’s to find solutions to climate change, energy and the environment, and related social or economic impacts”.

Leah Kelley, an executive member of QBACC and former AMS Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainability, said she believes the committee decided not to divest because they concluded that it wouldn’t lead to any real change. 

QBACC, however, had hoped that divestment from fossil fuels would be a symbolic effort. 

“The more people you have pursuing divestment, the more power it gives to that campaign,” Kelley, ArtSci ’16, said.

She said they hoped the university’s divestment would follow suit with a push by other high learning institutions to make a greater impact. 

They also hoped that Queen’s would do something along the same lines as Concordia University, she said. Concordia has dedicated $5 million to a “sustainable investment fund” and will consider full divestment once they see how their funds perform.

Kelley said Queen’s doesn’t seem to be as interested in furthering its environmental sustainability. She pointed to the lack of funding going towards the Sustainability Office, which she said asks for funding twice a year and does not have a set budget.

Mac Fitzgerald, another QBACC executive, said the group will continue to be vocal in an effort to make the university as “green” as possible.

“[QBACC] is going to work with [the University administration] on doing it the way they want to do it,” Fitzgerald, ArtSci ’16, said.

One of the group’s focuses this year is the release of a report by the Queen’s Sustainability Office, which will outline ways Queen’s can become a more sustainable school.

QBACC will also be going to Ottawa with a busload of students for a climate change march scheduled to occur at the beginning of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, which starts on Nov. 30.

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