Queen’s signs onto University Climate Coalition

Prof says move is ‘30 years too late,’ while University continues fossil investment 

Queen’s is joining the UC3 in the University Climate Coalition.

Queen’s has joined the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), ratifying a commitment to take action against climate change.

On Feb. 4, the University announced its new membership to the UC3—a group of 19 North American research institutions committed to reducing their carbon footprint and encouraging local climate change solutions.

Each member of the coalition must host a climate change forum within their first year of membership. The forum should bring community leaders, businesses, and elected representatives together with stakeholders and advocates to discuss potential local climate change solutions.

Queen’s is planning to host the forum during Sustainability Week in October of 2019. 

 “We look forward to collaborating with our UC3 partners as we continue striving to reduce our environmental footprint,” Donna Janiec, vice-principal (finance and administration), told The Gazette. 

Ariel Salzmann, a fossil fuel divestment activist and a professor in the history department, told The Journal in an interview the university’s newest commitment is “30 years too late.”

“At this point we don’t just need gradual change we need some really dramatic actions—and divestment is at the centre of it,” she said. “They’re on a timetable that’s completely out of sync with the realities that the scientists are telling us.” 

“It leads me to suspect or wonder whether this isn’t an effort to take the ball away from the students—student demands which are much clearer and really address in very direct terms the urgent situation we face,” she said. 

Salzmann has commented on Queen’s divestment in the past. During the University’s last consideration of divestment in 2015, she offered testimony on the necessity of divestment and showed support for the Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change (QBACC) divestment campaign.

In September of 2015, QBACC submitted a proposal for the divestment of non-pension investments to university administration. Ultimately, the Principal’s Advisory Committee recommended against divestment. 

The Advisory Report stated that as of January of 2015, the University held $54 million of funds relevant to fossil fuel divestment, representing 7.2 per cent of the Pooled Investment Fund and 4.8 per cent of the Pooled Endowment Fund. 

It recommended the University not divest because the petitioner’s basis of socialinjury wasn’t compelling and the committee didn’t believe divestment would be effective in reducing the risks of climate change.

Salzmann believes the Advisory Committee didn’t adequately consider the ethical and sociological questions of fossil fuel investment. 

“We should be educating. We should be using our infrastructure to educate and to make sure that our students have the environmental ABCs that are appropriate for the 21st century,” she said. “The whole university should be a model for the rest of the community for sustainability at every level.”

When The Journal asked whether joining the U3 would affect Queen’s investments, Janiec responded with a written statement: “We do not believe that the University’s Responsible Investing Policy and Procedures is contrary to our sustainability objectives.

Tags: 

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.