Queen’s should divest from the source of climate change

Photo: 
The University’s refusal to divest from fossil fuels proves that Queen’s values its finances above the changing climate.  
 
Queen’s positions itself as a leader in action against climate change. But if the school is sincere about its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, that should extend to divestment. 
 
The practice means selling off investments in companies that extract, produce, or make a profit off fossil fuels. By divesting, Queen’s would prove its stated dedication to sustainable practices. Queen’s last formally considered divestment in 2015. Following a six-month consultation, the University rejected the proposal on two premises.
 
First, the Committee claimed divestment isn’t an effective way to mitigate climate change because it’s the consumption, not the extraction or distribution of fossil fuels, that’s tied to climate change. 
 
Second, the Committee argued the fossil fuel industry doesn’t cause “social injury” because it operates legally. 
 
These proposals demonstrate a bias against divestment from the outset.
 
The Committee’s arguments are the result of their focus on the issue through a financial rather than environmental lens. Instead of considering their social responsibility, they diminish their accountability in the issue.  
 
Their arguments are inherently problematic—and incorrect. 
 
A study released in 2014 and circulated globally—available when divestment was considered at Queen’s—concluded nearly two-thirds of global warming emissions emitted since the 1800s are attributable to only 90 fossil fuel companies and reserves.
 
If you narrow that down to the entities’ policy- and decision-makers—those primarily responsible for climate change—they’re a small enough group that they could fit on a couple of Greyhound buses. 
 
In order to address the problem of climate change, the University can’t invest in its sources.
 
While these companies feed consumer demand for fossil fuels, they also sustain consumer reliance on their supply in doing so. The producers make it difficult for the population to imagine life without fossil fuels. They also actively lobby against funding replacement renewable sources.
 
If Queen’s is committed to mitigating its environmental impact, it can’t responsibly fund companies at the very heart of climate change. However, the University continues to express more anxiety about offending industry donors than it does about addressing climate change. 
 
Principal Woolf has stated the financial risk of divestment would send “negative signals” to donors, “vastly outweigh[ing] the positive benefit, if any, of divesting.”
 
For this university, divestment is an economic question, and climate action requires monetary incentive. But if Queen’s wants to claim a commitment to climate action, it needs to review its investment practices. 
 
The University should be investing its money—and its students’ money—into sustainable solutions to climate change, not into its source.
 
Rachel is one of The Journal’s Assistant News Editors. She’s a third-year English major. 
 

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.