In­vest­ing in fos­sil fu­els un­eth­i­cal and un­sus­tain­able, say pro­test­ers

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Rayleigh Lee

On Fri­day Septem­ber 8, around 300 stu­dents, ac­tivists, and com­mu­nity mem­bers gath­ered at Place Jean-paul Riopelle, in front of the Caisse de dépôt et place­ment du Québec (CDPQ) build­ing to rally against CDPQ’S in­vest­ment in fos­sil fu­els. The event was a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween var­i­ous NGOS, grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tions, and stu­dent as­so­ci­a­tions like the As­so­ci­a­tion for the Voice of Ed­u­ca­tion in Quebec (AVEQ), Sor­tons la Caisse du Car­bone, Climate Jus­tice Mon­treal, Climate Re­al­ity Canada, Mo­bil is at ion en­vi­ron­ment Ahun­stic-Cartier ville, Green­peace Quebec, and the David Suzuki Foun­da­tion.

The protest was sched­uled to co­in­cide with the forty-sixth ses­sion of the In­ter gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tak­ing place in Mon­treal from Septem­ber 3-9. The IPCC is a panel where sci­en­tists dis­cuss the most re­cent climate change as­sess­ment re­port.

The event was also part of a pe­ti­tion ef­fort to di­vest CDPQ’S funds. CDPQ is a crown cor­po­ra­tion that man­ages pub­lic pen­sion plans and in­sur­ance pro­grams in Quebec, which are es­ti­mated to amount up to more than $270 bil­lion CAD. The pe­ti­tion by Climate Jus­tice Mon­treal, “Get Off My Caisse,” ex­plains that “$16.2 bil­lion of this was in­vested in the oil and gas in­dus­try” last year alone, which con­tra­venes the Paris Climate Agree­ment Canada signed in April 2017. The pe­ti­tion calls for the with­drawal of all fos­sil fuel in­vest­ments in the next three years, as fos­sil fu­els are “in the process of be­com­ing strongly de­val­ued,” both en­vi­ron­men­tally and fi­nan­cially. Pro­test­ers held ban­ners, flags, and black bal­loons rep­re­sent­ing car­bon in the at­mos­phere, which were popped at the end of the rally, sym­bol­iz­ing the rup­tur­ing of car­bon bub­ble.

The Quebec Pen­sion Plan and the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try

The Quebec Pen­sion Plan is cur­rently the largest pen­sion fund in Canada, reach­ing an es­ti­mate of $16.7 bil­lion CAD and com­ing sec­ond only to On­tario’s Cana­dian Pen­sion Plan (CPP). The con­tri­bu­tions to the plan are col­lected through an au­to­nomic pay­roll de­duc­tion or through taxes on a cus­tomer’s bill, mean­ing con­sumers are un­able to di­vest un­less the Quebec Pen­sion Plan as a whole does so. Ac­cord­ing to Diego Creier, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor of the David Suzuki Foun­da­tion, the lack of sus­tain­able prac­tices in CDPQ is not only “bet­ting against our fu­ture, and the fu­ture of our chil­dren,” but also im­pli­cates those in­di­rectly con­tribut­ing to the fund as “ac­com­plices to a climate crime.”

“Ci­ti­zen groups, stu­dents, unions, and re­li­gious groups have de­cided to come to this rally to­day to show that there is no fu­ture in fos­sil fu­els, that our col­lec­tive money is at risk, and that by in­vest­ing in fos­sil fu­els, our pen­sion funds are bet­ting against the Paris Agree­ment,” said Creier in an in­ter­view with The Daily.

“We are [...] here to­day to ask our pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tor of pen­sion funds to please bring our money out of fos­sil fu­els,” he con­tin­ued. “The ur­gency of the climate cri­sis does not need to be ex­plained any­more. Hur­ri­canes are ba­si­cally be­com­ing highly de­struc­tive be­cause they are fu­eled by climate change, so the ur­gency is there, the sci­ence is there, now they have to present a plan to quickly di­vest.”

Fos­sil fu­els: en­vi­ron­men­tally and fi­nan­cially un­sus­tain­able

Creier also noted the fi­nan­cial in­sta­bil­ity of fos­sil fuel in­vest­ments in the long run: “they need to have a plan to get out of fos­sil fu­els in the short term, not only en­vi­ron­men­tally but fi­nan­cially as well. [...] We are putting our money at risk be­cause the [...] tran­si­tion to clean and new tech­nol­ogy is in­evitable, and fos­sil fuel as­sets are go­ing to abruptly lose their value.”

“We’re in­vest­ing more and more money into an in­dus­try that’s go­ing to pop,” agreed Kris­ten Perry, the Co­or­di­na­tor of As­so­ci­a­tion for the Voice of Ed­u­ca­tion in Quebec (AVEQ). “We need to be mov­ing those in­vest­ments away into some­thing that’s not only bet­ter eth­i­cally but also bet­ter for our fi­nances.”

Perry stressed the role of stu­dent en­gage­ment and putting pres­sure on the ad­min­is­tra­tion to move toward so­cially re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ment.

“For AVEQ, it’s re­ally im­por­tant that we are work­ing on climate change. [...] Stu­dents [...] know that it’s time for us to use our po­si­tion in our in­sti­tu­tions like Mcgill, like Con­cor­dia, to Caisse, to say that ‘we don’t want our money go­ing to­wards in­vest­ing in some­thing that’s go­ing to be de­stroy­ing our fu­ture.’ We want to in­vest in solutions—things that are go­ing to sup­port us and the en­vi­ron­ment, sup­port­ing In­dige­nous peo­ples, and fos­sil fu­els do not do any of that. [...] We’re call­ing for Mcgill Univer­sity to di­vest from fos­sil fu­els, and like­wise, we are call­ing for Caisse to di­vest from fos­sil fu­els,” said Perry.

Im­pact of pipeline projects on In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties

While the Paris Agree­ment com­mits the gov­ern­ment to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 30 per cent by 2030, the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment has si­mul­ta­ne­ously ex­panded oil pro­duc­tion through the pipeline projects. This has not only caused en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age, but has also re­sulted in so­cial con­se­quences that have dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected the In­dige­nous pop­u­la­tion.

Char­lene Aleck, a spokesper­son from the Tsleil-wau­tuth Na­tion, told the au­di­ence, “We are greatly af­fected by the Kinder Mor­gan pipeline ex­pan­sion [...] which th­ese folks have in­vested their money in. [...] From day one, our whole na­tion has 100 per cent op­posed this pipeline ex­pan­sion and the ef­fects it brings to our com­mu­nity.”

“The drill bit that would be­come a pipeline would con­tam­i­nate our back­yard, and our kitchen sink, [...] the wa­ters our ter­ri­tory has given us [...] and sus­tained us. [...] All our tra­di­tional foods [...] are greatly af­fected by the in­dus­try that we have op­posed,” con­tin­ued Aleck.

The Tsleil-wau­tuth Na­tion launched a cam­paign against the planned ex­pan­sion of the Kinder Mor­gan and Trans Moun­tain pipeline in May 2017. The Na­tion cir­cu­lated a re­port re­gard­ing the risks of the in­vest­ments in part­ner­ship with West Coast En­vi­ron­men­tal Law.

“With this [we] ask that th­ese in­vestors take a look at the [...] point we are at to­day, to change away from fos­sil fu­els to green en­ergy,” con­cluded Aleck.

Eu­gene Kung, an en­vi­ron­men­tal lawyer work­ing on the pre­ven­tion of the ex­pan­sion of tar sands in­fra­struc­ture told the au­di­ence, “There have never been more for­est fires. [...] When we left Vancouver yes­ter­day, you could see the moun­tains, the sun, the clouds com­pletely clouded by smoke. [...] Our pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions need to stop, [...] not just be­cause it’s a fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion, but it’s a moral de­ci­sion now. [...] This is about the fu­ture.”

“There is no fu­ture in fos­sil fu­els, that our col­lec­tive money is at risk, and by in­vest­ing in fos­sil fu­els, our pen­sion funds are bet­tling against the Paris Agree­ment.” —Diego Creier Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor of the David Suzuki Foun­da­tion “We’re call­ing for Mcgill Univer­sity to di­vest from fos­sil fu­els, and like­wise, we are call­ing for Caisse to di­vest.” —Kris­ten Perry Co­or­di­na­tor of the As­so­ci­a­tion for the Voice of Ed­u­ca­tion in Quebec

Rayleigh Lee | The Mcgill Daily

Rally at Place Jean-paul Riopelle.

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