Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns in Canada

Global Divestment Days took place worldwide on February 13 and 14th, organized by 350.org through their Go Fossil Free campaign. In Canada, a divestment campaign led by the UBCC350, (a group of students, faculty, staff, and alumni) climaxed on February 10 with a a largely symbolic vote by UBC Faculty : see “UBC profs vote 62 per cent in Favour of Fossil Fuel Divestment” in the Vancouver Observer (Feb 10  ) and see the press release from UBC350. On February 12, the Financial Post reported that “University of Calgary will not Divest from Fossil Fuels”.

Also in February, the Sustainability and Education Policy Network housed at the University of Saskatchewan released The State of Fossil Fuel Divestment in Canadian Post-Secondary Institutions, which lists all 27 Canadian post-secondary institutions where divestment campaigns were underway as of October 2014, as well as the amount of money currently invested in fossil fuels. The report notes a “disconnect”: “While some campuses have positioned themselves as sustainability leaders, they are still heavily invested in fossil fuel companies”. Other related documents from the ongoing research are at the SEPN website.

A White Paper, Fossil Fuel Divestment: Reviewing Arguments, Policy Implications, and Opportunities was published by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) in January. It  concludes that fossil fuel divestment campaigns can be socially effective but are unable to have any real impact on reducing emissions or financing transition to sustainability without alternative investments that change the structure of the economy. PICS is maintaining a website for ongoing commentary on the issue, and indeed, the paper has been criticized in The Tyee and in the DeSmog Canada Blog for “missing the point” of the importance of divestment to revoke social license.

Lima Leaves Out Key Labour Language

Labour organizations are decrying the lack of language pertaining to just transition policies in the final negotiating agreement of the Climate Conference in Lima in December.

Organizations such as BlueGreen Alliance and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) lobbied leaders prior to the Conference, providing recommendations and wording suggestions to facilitate the inclusion of worker protection and reducing inequality in the climate agreement. BlueGreen advocated for improved international collaboration on best practices for just transition, and joined TUED in calling on the parties to prepare data on the positive and negative employment impacts of climate policies to support decision-making.

While a number of governments did raise labour issues at the Conference, co-chairs ultimately left them out of the text altogether. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, however, there was an overall trend of greater recognition of the centrality of just transition to sound climate policy, an active role played by labour organizations at the Conference, and the ongoing expansion and diversification of the climate justice movement, including increasing attention to labour issues. See Lima climate conference deceives, but not the climate movement. A similar assessment was made by the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Climate talks advance slowly, but activism on the rise.