Musings on the major anti-divestment arguments

by Andrea Loken, ECA co-founder and President OSSTF Limestone Teachers

1. If we don’t invest in fossil fuels, someone else will.

This is sort of like Stephen Harper’s argument for Canada’s opposition to ambitious climate targets at the UN climate talks – unless the big players like US and China were going to do it, Canada wouldn’t bother. He argued that Canada’s contributions to carbon emissions aren’t significant on the global scale, absolving us of responsibility.

Mental health/control freak tip: You can’t control what others do. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Do it for Indigenous communities whose rights are violated. Do it for future generations so they might inherit a livable planet.

2. Divesting won’t hurt fossil fuel companies.

Ronald McDonald probably won’t be hurt if I don’t eat Big Macs either, but it doesn’t mean I should eat them if I don’t want to. I DON’T WANT A BIG MAC.

3. We will lose money.

It’s possible, but… [Sarcasm alert:] That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I close my eyes and see the pictures of police hosing down Indigenous People and other land defenders with water cannons in sub-zero temperatures at Standing Rock last November.

Hmmm. Money or Indigenous rights? Money or water? Hmmm…

OR consider this: We might NOT lose money. We might lose money if we remain invested in fossil fuels. Last year a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives indicated that the OTPP lost nearly $1.8 billion and OMERS lost $192 million in the 2014 oil price shock. Here is the report:

CCPA: Pension Funds and Fossil Fuels: The Economic Case for Divestment (2015)

Another useful report can be found here:

Carbon Tracker: Lost in Transition: How the energy sector is missing potential demand destruction (2015)

4. Engagement with fossil fuel companies is a better strategy.

Maybe. But I don’t believe it. First, because according to strong science, we only have a carbon budget of about 500 gigatons – about 15 years – to transition off fossil fuels to maintain a livable planet [www.keepitintheground.org]. In other words, at least 80% of known reserves have to remain in the ground. How do you engage with a fossil fuel corporation on that premise? There is no ‘good’ way to burn unburnable carbon. And 15 years?! We don’t have time to engage! Secondly, this isn’t an either/or argument. We can engage away while we have ownership. Engage and tell the fossil fuel giants to stop hiding the evidence of anthropogenic climate change.

The time to act is now. Any how. Any way. We need to make a shift. We have all the technology we need to make the transition. Let’s take into our own hands that which we can. We don’t have to invest in fossil fuels.  We don’t have to support corporations which are notorious for abuse of Indigenous rights. We have a choice.

 

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