Open letter from Faculty to McGill’s Board of Governors

An Open letter from Faculty to McGill’s Board of Governors

 

There is undeniable scientific evidence that climate change is urgent, and best estimates call for keeping at least 80% of our existing fossil fuel reserves in the ground in order to stay below the safe limit of a 2 degree Celsius increase in temperature [1]. A large-scale transition to renewable energy sources is eminently necessary for the future well-being of our society and our planet [2]. As such, continued investment in the companies that actively work against this transition and profit from continued fossil fuel dependence is not morally tenable for a public institution. As concerned McGill faculty and emeritus faculty, we join with Divest McGill in calling on the Board of Governors to divest McGill’s endowment fund from the top 200 fossil fuel companies by estimated carbon reserves, with an immediate focus on companies heavily involved in the Canadian oil sands.

 
In the face of climate threats to current and future generations, fossil fuel companies have continued with business as usual, spending more than $674 billion in 2013 on exploration and development of new reserves [3]. The industry has consistently blocked or weakened climate mitigation policies, and worked to obfuscate both climate science and media portrayal of climate science [4,5]. Domestically, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers successfully lobbied for weaker emission regulations in the oil sands in 2013 and the omnibus bills that removed much of the environmental protection written into federal laws in 2012 [6,7]. None of the top 200 fossil fuel companies have any credible business plans for shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in a timely manner. In Canada and around the world, their activities infringe on the rights of indigenous and front-line communities, who have been marginalized by these expansion projects and who are most directly and powerfully impacted by them [8].

 

There is no evidence that divestment of the endowment from fossil fuel companies would pose financial harm to the University. Investments in fossil fuel companies represent approximately 5% of our endowment, and less than 1% of the operating budget each year is funded from the endowment fund [9]. A study conducted by S&P Capital IQ, and confirmed by further studies, demonstrates that over the last ten years, an endowment reflecting the S&P 500 without targeted fossil fuel companies would have received higher returns than one with them [10,11,12,13,14]. Moreover, the existence of a carbon bubble—an overvaluation of fossil fuel companies based on the assumption that they will extract all of their current reserves—means that their value is expected to drop dramatically as governments act on climate change. The current fluctuation of crude oil prices suggests that fossil fuel investments are already proving to be risky investments, as has been highlighted by observers from HSBC to the International Energy Agency [15,16,17,18].

 

The Divest McGill campaign began in the Fall of 2012 and is now one of over 600 fossil fuel divestment campaigns internationally. In May 2013, the Board of Governor’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) ruled to reject  the group’s petition, citing “insufficient evidence of social injury” [19]. The more detailed reasons given for remaining invested in fossil fuels were the unsubstantiated, easily refutable claims that the sector is “highly regulated by government at all levels,” and that these companies “may help to promote and encourage the use of alternate sources of energy”. The movement has official support from all three major student unions at McGill University and many other on-campus groups, as well as over 1300 signatures from students, faculty, alumni and staff in the McGill community. Remaining invested in fossil fuel companies undermines the university’s mission of “service to society” and its commitment to manage its portfolio in a socially, environmentally, and economically responsible manner as outlined in its sustainability strategy [20].

 

Over 180 jurisdictions and institutions around the world have already committed to fossil fuel divestment, totaling an estimated $50 billion USD of funds [21]. The most comprehensive study on divestment to date, by the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, indicates that past divestment movements against South African apartheid and tobacco brought changes in corporate behavior, government regulation, legal statutes, and even share prices, that would not otherwise have been accomplished and that this one is already well positioned to do the same [22].

 

We the undersigned are faculty of McGill, many with expertise in climate science and policy, and all acutely conscious of what is at stake if we do not act. McGill has an opportunity to be a true leader of sustainability and pioneer the necessary transition away from fossil fuel dependence. Moreover, we have a moral responsibility, as an institution that is dedicated to fostering and bettering the future, to ensure a safe planet for our students and our society. We are calling on McGill to fulfill this responsibility and divest the endowment from fossil fuels.

 

Signed, 

 

Shaun Lovejoy, Professor of Physics, Faculty of Science

Andrew Piper, Professor of Arts, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Faculty of Arts

Raja Sengupta, Associate Professor of Geography and School of Environment, Faculty of Science

Francois Fagotto, Assoc. Professor of Biology, Faculty of Science

Darin Barney, Associate Professor, Art History & Communication Studies, Faculty of Arts

Melania Cristescu, Associate Professor of Biology, Faculty of Science

Gregory Mikkelson, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts

Irene Gregory-Eaves, Associate Professor of Biology, Faculty of Science

Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Assistant Professor, IHSP, MSE, and Associate Member of Economics; Faculty of Arts

Ozlem Orhan, Language Instructor, LLC German Studies

Kevin Manaugh, Assistant Professor Department of Geography and McGill School of Environment

Jon Sakata, Assistant Professor of Biology, Faculty of Science

Kristin Norget, Associate Professor, Anthropology

Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert, Associate Professor of History, Faculty of Arts

Andrew Hendry, Professor, Redpath Museum and Department of Biology

Arash Abizadeh, Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Arts

Steven Jordan, Chair (interim), Department of Integrated Studies in Education, Faculty of Education

Adrienne Hurley, Associate Professor of East Asian Studies

Uli Locher, Associate Professor of Sociology, Faculty of Arts

Rex Brynen, Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Arts

Peter Caines, James McGill Professor and Macdonald Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering

Peter Brown, Professor, McGill School of Environment, Geography and Natural Resource Sciences

Jonathan Kimmelman, Associate Professor, Biomedical Ethics

Stephen McAdams, Professor of Music Research, Schulich School of Music

Eran Shor, Associate Professor of Sociology, Faculty of Arts

Rowan Barrett, Assistant Professor, Redpath Museum and Department of Biology, Faculty of Science

Lisa Barg, Associate Professor of Music Research, Schulich School of Music

Hans Larsson, Associate Professor, Redpath Museum and Department of Biology, Faculty of Science

Becky Lentz, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Faculty of Arts

Carrie Rentschler, Director of IGSF, Associate Professor, Department of Art History and Communication Studies

Fiona Ritchie, Associate Professor, Department of English, Faculty of Arts

Lynn Kozak, Assistant Professor of Classical Studies, Faculty of Arts

Louis Chauvin, Senior Faculty Lecturer, Faculty of Management

Ian Gold, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Psychiatry, Faculty of Arts

Rüdiger Krahe, Associate Professor of Biology, Faculty of Science

Ian H Henderson, Associate Professor (New Testament & Early Christianity), Faculty of Religious Studies

Elsbeth Heaman, Associate Professor of History, Faculty of Arts

Derek Nystrom, Associate Professor of English, Faculty of Arts

Michael Cowan, Associate Professor and Dawson Scholar in Cinema and Visual Studies, Faculty of Arts

Richard Janda, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law

Jonathan Sterne, Professor of Art History and Communication Studies, Faculty of Arts

Nancy Adler, Professor of Organizational Behaviour, Faculty of Management

Hasana Sharp, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts

Ned Schantz, Associate Professor of English, Faculty of Arts

Stephanie Posthumus, Assistant Professor of Literatures, Languages, Cultures, Faculty of Arts

David Hensley, Associate Professor, Department of English, Faculty of Arts

Subho Basu, Associate Professor of History, Faculty of Arts

Prisca Fenoglio, Faculty Lecturer at the French Language Center, Faculty of Arts

Pascal Brissette , Professor of French Literature, Faculty of Arts

Frederic Fabry, Associate Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, Faculty of Science

Pasha M. Khan, Assistant Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies, Faculty of Arts

Satyanarayan Dev, Adjunct Professor of Food Science, Faculty of Bioresource Engineering

Anthony Ricciardi, Associate Professor of Biology, Faculty of Science

Reza Sharif Naeini, Assistant Professor of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine

Grace Fong, Professor, Dept. of East Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts

Donald Attwood, Emeritus Professor, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts

Eli MacLaren, Assistant Professor of English, Faculty of Arts

Maria Theresia Starzmann, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts

Maggie Kilgour, Professor of English, Faculty of Arts

Sandra Hyde, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts

Gwen Bennett, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and East Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts

Thomas Lamarre, Professor of East Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts

Judith Szapor, Assistant Professor of History, Faculty of Arts

Yuriko Furuhata, Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts

Amanda Holmes, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies, Faculty of Arts

Annick Chapdelaine, Associate Professor / Professeure agrégée de langue et littérature françaises, Faculty of Arts

Liane Alitowski, Faculty Instructor in Jewish Studies, Faculty of Arts

Katherine Zien, Assistant Professor of English, Faculty of Arts

Eric Caplan, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, Faculty of Arts

Carlos Fraenkel, Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar, Depts. of Philosophy and Jewish Studies

Ara Osterweil, Assistant Professor of English, Faculty of Arts

Daniel Rueck, Faculty Lecturer in History and Classical Studies, Faculty of Arts

Anna Berman, Assistant Professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Faculty of Arts

Jason Opal, Associate Professor of History, Faculty of Arts

Sandeep Banerjee, Assistant Professor of English, Faculty of Arts

Berkeley Kaite, Associate Professor of English, Faculty of Arts

Paul Peters, Professor of German Studies, Faculty of Arts

Prashant Keshavmurthy, Assistant Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies

Céline Le Bourdais, Professor of Sociology, Faculty of Arts

James Cline, Professor of Physics, Faculty of Science

Fiona J. Benson, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education

Alberto Perez-Gomez, Professor of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering

Richard (dik) Harris, Emeritus Professor, Physics

Tove Holmes, Assistant Professor of German Studies, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Faculty of Arts

Kristen Anker, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law

Dror Etzion, Associate Professor, Desautels Faculty of Management

Brian Lewis, Professor of History, Faculty of Arts

Margaret Graham, Associate Professor, Desautels Faculty of Management

Genevieve Gore, Assistant Librarian, Life Sciences Library

Tami Pereg-Barnea, Assistant Professor, Physics Department

Narendra Subramanian, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

Bruce Reed, Professor, School of Computer Science

Catherine Potvin, Professor, Department of Biology

Alanna Thain, Associate Professor, Department of English

Jennifer Garland, Assistant Librarian, McGill Library

Alia Al-Saji, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts

Setrag Manoukian, Associate Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies and Department of Anthropology

Julie Cumming, Associate Dean, Research and Administration, Schulich School of Music

Jeffrey Moser, Assistant Professor of Art History, Faculty of Arts

Julie Jones, Assistant Librarian (Geography, Social Work, Urban Planning) Humanities and Social Sciences Library

Christine Ross, Professor of Art History, Faculty of Art

Abby Lippman, Professor Emerita, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health

Alison Laywine, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy

Gerald van Gurp, Assistant Professor; Faculty of Medicine

Jenny Burman, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Chair of AHCS

Margaret Lock, Professor, Emerita, Anthropology, Faculties of Medicine and Arts

Louigi Addario-Berry, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Natalie Stoljar, Associate Professor, Philosophy

Nicholas Dew, Associate Professor of History

Ken Hastings, Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Faculty of Medicine

Michael Hendricks, Assistant Professor of Biology, Faculty of Science

Lynn McLauchlin, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine

Claude Crépeau, Associate Professor, School of Computer Science

Gabriella Coleman, Associate Professor, Department of Art History and Communication Studies

Myron Frankman, Assoc. Professor (Retired) Economics & former President of MAUT

Nicolas Kosoy, Assistant Professor of Ecological Economics, FAES

Gergely Lukacs, Professor of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine

Bronwen Low, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education

James Coulton, Professor of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine

Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies, Desautels Faculty of Management

Madhav Badami, Associate Professor, McGill School of Environment & School of Urban Planning

Ahmed El-Geneidy, Associate Professor, McGill School of Urban Planning

Eugenio Bolongaro, Associate Professor of Italian Studies, Faculty of Arts

Ismael Vaccaro, Associate Professor, School of Environment and Department of Anthropology

David Davies, Professor of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts

Ronald Chase, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biology

Eric Latimer, Professor, Department of Psychiatry; Associate Member, Dept. of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health

Mark S. Goldberg, Professor, Department of Medicine; Medical Scientist, McGill University Health Centre-Research Institute

Gilles Paradis, Professor and Chair, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health

Wayne Wood, Course Lecturer, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health

Erica Moodie, Professor of Biostatistics, Faculty of Medicine

Jay Kaufman, Professor of Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine

Nancy Mayo, Professor of Faculty of Medicine

Sasha Bernatsky, Associate Professor of Medicine

Kevin Schwartzman, Professor of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine

Bruce Case, Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine

Jocelyne Feine, Professor, Faculty of Dentistry

Marina Klein, Professor of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine

Elizabeth Robinson, Associate member, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health

Jill Baumgartner, Assistant Professor, Institute for Health and Social Policy and Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health

Catherine Dea, Adjunct professor, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health

Devi Banerjee, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine

Kaber Dasgupta, Associate Professor of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine

Hank Knox, Associate Professor of Music Performance, Schulich School of Music

Nil Basu, Associate Professor, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Saku Mantere, Associate professor of strategy and organization, Desautels Faculty of Management 

Mallika Banerjee, Assistant professor, Organizational Behavior, Desautels Faculty of Management

Matissa Hollister, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour, Faculty of Management

Jui Ramaprasad, Assistant Professor, Information Systems, Desautels Faculty of Management 

Patricia Hewlin, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Management

Mindy Carter, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education

Naomi Nichols, Assistant Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

James McGilvray, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Arts

Daniel Weinstock, Professor, Faculty of Law

Elizabeth Elbourne, Associate Professor, Department of History and Classical Studies, Faculty of Arts

Anny Guimont, Part Time Faculty Lecturer (156th)

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[1] Malte Meinshausen, Nicolai Meinshausen, William Hare, Sarah CB Raper, Katja Frieler, Reto Knutti, David J. Frame, and Myles R. Allen, “Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 C.” Nature 458, no. 7242 (2009): 1158-1162,http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v458/n7242/full/nature08017.html.

[2] IPCC, “Climate Change 2014, Mitigation of Climate Change.” Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 2014), http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg3/.

[3] “Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets.” Carbon Tracker Initiative and Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London, UK (2013). http://www.carbontracker.org/site/wastedcapital”>http://www.carbontracker.org/site/wastedcapital.

[4] Union of Concerned Scientists, “A Climate of Corporate Control,” (2012),<a href=”http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/scientific_integrity/a-climate-of-corporate-control-report.pdf”>http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/scientific_integrity/a-climate-of-corporate-control-report.pdf.

[5] Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, “Defeating the merchants of doubt,” Nature 465, no. 7299 (2010): 686-687,http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v465/n7299/abs/465686a.html.

[6] Shawn McCarthy, “Oil Industry Successfully Lobbies Ottawa to Delay Climate Regulations, emails show.” Globe and Mail,  November 8, 2013,http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/oil-industry-successfully-lobbied-ottawa-to-delay-climate-regulations-e-mails-show/article15346866/

[7] Max Paris, “Energy industry letter suggested environmental law changes,” CBC News, January 9, 2013,http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/energy-industry-letter-suggested-environmental-law-changes-1.1346258.

[8] James Anaya, “Extractive industries and indigenous peoples: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples,” Report to the United Nations Human Rights Council A/HRC/24/41, 2013, http://unsr.jamesanaya.org/study/report-a-hrc-24-41-extractive-industries-and-indigenous-peoples-report-of-the-special-rapporteur-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples.

[9] Divest McGill, “McGill’s Investments,” 2013, http://divestmcgill.com/mcgills-investments/

[10] Peter Dreier, “Obama embraces the divestment movement: from apartheid to climate change,” Huffington Post, June 29, 2013,http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/obama-and-the-divestment-_b_3520933.html.

[11] MSCI, “Responding to the Call for Fossil-fuel Free Portfolios,” MSCI ESG Research Issue Brief, 2013,  http://www.msci.com/resources/factsheets/MSCI_ESG_Research_FAQ_on_Fossil-Free_Investing.pdf.

[12] Impax Asset Management, “Beyond Fossil Fuels: The Investment Case for Fossil Fuel Divestment,” (2013), https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.350.org/images/Impax–20130704_white_paper_fossil_fuel_divestment_uk_final.pdf.

[13] Patrick Geddes, “Do the Investment Math: Building a Carbon-Free Portfolio,” Aperio Group, 2013, http://www.aperiogroup.com/system/files/documents/building_a_carbon_free_portfolio.pdf

[14]  Atif Ansar, Ben Caldecott, and James Tilbury, “Stranded assets and the fossil fuel divestment campaign: what does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets?”University of Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment: Stranded Assets Programme, 2013, http://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/research/stranded-assets/SAP-divestment-report-final.pdf.

[15] Paul Spedding, Kirtan Mehta and Nick Robins, “Oil & carbon revisited: Value at risk from ‘unburnable’ reserves,” HSBC Global Research, (2013), http://gofossilfree.org/files/2013/02/HSBCOilJan13.pdf.

[16] Luke Sussams, “World Bank president calls for financial regulation of climate risks,”Carbon Tracker Initiative, January 24, 2014, http://www.carbontracker.org/site/news/world-bank-president-calls-for-financial-regulation-of-climate-risks.

[17] MSCI, “Responding to the Call for Fossil-fuel Free Portfolios,” MSCI ESG Research Issue Brief, 2013,  http://www.msci.com/resources/factsheets/MSCI_ESG_Research_FAQ_on_Fossil-Free_Investing.pdf.

[18] Marc Lee and Brock Ellis, “Canada’s Carbon Liabilities: The Implications of Stranded Fossil Fuel Assets for Financial Markets and Pension Funds,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, March 26, 2013, https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/canadas-carbon-liabilities.

[19] “Report of the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility GD12-55,”McGill University Board of Governors, May 23, 2013, http://www.sindark.com/350/camsr_documents_0.pdf.

[20] “Vision 2020: A Sustainability Strategy for McGill University,” Sustainability at McGill, 2014, http://www.mcgill.ca/sustainability/sites/mcgill.ca.sustainability/files/sustainability_strategy_final2.pdf

[21] Arabella Advisors, “Measuring the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement,” September 19, 2014, http://www.arabellaadvisors.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Measuring-the-Global-Divestment-Movement.pdf  

[22] Atif Ansar, Ben Caldecott, and James Tilbury, “Stranded assets and the fossil fuel divestment campaign: what does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets?”University of Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment: Stranded Assets Programme, (2013), http://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/research/stranded-assets/SAP-divestment-report-final.pdf. =============

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