By Andrea Loken, teacher, OSSTF Limestone District 27, Educators Climate Alliance co-founder
(Please note, a report from AMPA, OSSTF’s annual general meeting will be posted on this blog shortly to explain what happened with our motions.)
(You can sign our petition here.)
Unions and, in particular, Educators’ unions have a unique opportunity right now in history to be part of a BIG vision. As a unionist, climate activist and physics teacher, I see an amazing chance to come together with others and build upon our roots of social justice and our passion for teaching and leading, knowing the terrifying and real future we face if we as a society do not change course.
The great news is that we have so many allies. We have a chance to unite many groups that have seemed to be fighting isolated fights, groups that have a common foe, groups whose combined power would be unstoppable.
To quote Naomi Klein from her powerful speech as she addressed UNIFOR in September 2013: “Climate Change is OUR shock doctrine.” The same forces that are destroying the environment are the forces attacking labour and calling for austerity; they are oppressing indigenous people, people of colour, the poor, and women to name a few. And climate change disproportionately harms the most vulnerable. It isn’t just a social justice issue, says Naomi Klein, “It is a civilization wake up call.”
The most conservative estimates of the climate science say that we need to stay below 2oC warming to avoid catastrophic consequences. The IPCC also says we have a carbon budget of about 600 gigatons which, at current growth rates, we will burn within 15 years. Financial analysts say we have 5 times that much carbon already in reserves, ready to burn. The time to transition off carbon-based energy is right now.
With this knowledge, Ontario educators must accept the challenge to act collectively to fight climate change by joining the growing global movement to divest from leading fossil fuel companies. To this end, we are asking at the OSSTF general meeting (AMPA 2015) to form a workgroup to determine how to pressure the OTPP and OMERS to divest since we have no direct influence on these pensions.
The point of divestment is not to financially harm these massive corporations. The point is to morally tarnish them and shift the paradigm to a new energy future that is sustainable. The divestment movement targeting South African apartheid in the 1980s, in which OMERS participated, changed the world for the better.
Let’s seize the day!!
Please read and share our motions. Please note that they have been amended (denoted by red text) as of March 10, 2015:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT AMPA establish a two year work group that will investigate:
b) ways to pressure the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System to:
- participate in the divestment of fossil fuel companies;
- ensure none of the OTPP’s or OMERS’ directly held or commingled assets include holdings in fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years as determined by the Carbon Tracker List (top 200 fossil fuel companies); and
- release bi-annual updates, available to OSSTF members and the public, detailing progress.
The work group will be comprised of the following:
a) Three bargaining unit presidents/leaders, with an interest in environmental issues, as selected by the Provincial Executive from applications;
b) One OTF Governor;
c) One Provincial Executive member, assigned by the President;
d) The Secretariat member assigned to environmental issues.
The work group will report to Provincial Council on an interim basis, as appropriate, and submit an interim report with recommendations to AMPA 2016 and a final report with recommendations to AMPA 2017.
BE IT RESOLVED THAT Policy 9.10 be amended by the addition of a new subsection that reads:
“It is the policy of OSSTF that the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) and the Ontario Municipality Retirement System (OMERS) should not invest in fossil fuel companies. Specifically, the OTPP and OMERS should stop any new investment in fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds as determined by the Carbon Tracker List (top 200 fossil fuel companies) and should promote divestment until that is achieved.”
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Provincial Executive and the OTF Governors ask the OTPP and OMERS Board of Directors to direct asset managers to stop any new investment in fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years as determined by the Carbon Tracker List (top 200 fossil fuel companies).