Is the fossil fuel industry ignoring risks of declining demand?

Read the whole article from by Ben Adler – October 28, 2015:

Fossil fuel companies aren’t just bad for the climate — they’re bad investments

“The Carbon Tracker Initiative, an energy industry research group, published a landmark report on this in 2011, which inspired the divestment movement. Now the group is out with a new report,  “Lost in Transition: How the energy sector is missing potential demand destruction,” comparing published fossil fuel industry scenarios to financial market research. Carbon Tracker finds that the industry is ignoring risks of declining demand.”

Open Letter and OSSTF Candidate Questionnaire

The following letter and questionnaire was sent to all declared candidates for OSSTF President, Vice-President, Executive Officer, Treasurer, OTF Governor and OTF Table Officer. If an email address could not be found for a candidate, we contacted them through social media.

The deadline has been extended to March 6, since some candidates have said they did not receive it.

Again, our sincere gratitude for the engagement of the candidates.

To the Candidates seeking election to OSSTF Provincial positions at AMPA 2017:

Thank you for your courage to put your names forward for leadership positions. We appreciate your willingness to take the risk and participate fully in the democratic process of elections.

Just over two years ago, the Educators Climate Alliance (ECA) was formed and launched a divestment campaign aimed at pressuring the OTPP and OMERS to divest from fossil fuels. Since then, many conversations have taken place and much has transpired globally in a world-wide divestment movement.  Since Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline clash, the divestment movement has broadened to include the Big Banks that fund these destructive projects. At this point, we are not asking for divestment from the banks, but motions going to AMPA 2017 through OSSTF Limestone District 27 are asking again for divestment from fossil fuels. The motions can be found on the ECA website here.

“Indigenous Peoples are standing up to protect land, water and our collective future: not only for us but for the very existence of the human race.” – Crystal Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree

Examples of Indigenous movements and First Nations on the front lines:

RAVEN – Beaver Lake Cree – Tar Sands Trial

Elsipogtog stands up to fracking

Chard Métis Society VS TransCanada

Idle No More

Indigenous Rising

Will OSSTF stand with First Nations and all Indigenous Peoples and put people and the planet over profit?

We think that OSSTF  has the capacity to be a real leader in social justice and human rights causes. Our union has fought for the rights and interests of our members and has a history of advocating for progressive change on issues affecting broader society.

As a candidate seeking a leadership position within OSSTF, we would like to know your position on these issues. We request that you answer the three questions below before AMPA 2017. We will post these questions on the Educators Climate Alliance blog and share them on social media. By answering these questions you are agreeing to have your responses published verbatim on our website.

Our deepest gratitude for your participation! Please see the questionnaire below.

On behalf of the Educators Climate Alliance,

Adam Davidson-Harden (D27), Kevin Bowers (D27), Anik Hahn (D26), William MacCallum (D15)

Educators Climate Alliance Questionnaire

Please respond by email by March 3, 2017.

  1. Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Canada is not just about the legacy of residential schools, it is also about the sovereign rights of Indigenous peoples to govern their lands. Indigenous peoples are leading the ways towards an environmentally, economically, socially and culturally sustainable future.  As educators and members of OSSTF, we understand that we are on the frontlines of this Reconciliation process.As Union leaders, how can we push for progressive change in the Reconciliation process that is concrete and substantive?
  2. Climate change is a defining issue of our time and many are suggesting it will require mobilization and organization on an unprecedented scale. What can OSSTF do to proactively assist in climate solutions? And how can we use this opportunity to strengthen our union and the labour movement?
  3. Lastly, how might we use our internal investments, and investments of our pensions, to support meaningful progress on the above issues? What role might Divestment play in our leadership?

Our letter to OSSTF Presidents/Executive

Dear District/Bargaining Unit Presidents / Members of the Provincial Executive,

It has been an eventful year for climate action worldwide and we are very excited to be a part of such a vital movement. Last year we submitted motions to AMPA related to the divestment of fossil fuels from pensions and our own internal investments. Out of that came a push to address climate change in a more meaningful way by our Union. We are grateful for the work of the Environmental Advisory Work Group (EAWG) who took on the task assigned by the MAC431-15 Work Group. There are many progressive and multi-faceted climate action motions that are coming to AMPA through its work – we hope they are supported!

The ECA believes that the Labour Movement is critical to the Climate Movement. This year we have seen an explosion in awareness among union leaders. We are becoming aware of the intersection of labour rights with indigenous rights, women’s rights, minority rights and others.  All of our struggles are indeed related and we will all be stronger working together. So many of the climate solutions are also solutions to equality, racism and reconciliation with First Nations. (Watch Tim DeChristopher explain in this inspiring speech.) Just look at the LEAP Manifesto – which OSSTF has signed – for an idea of the fundamental values behind a just transition away from fossil fuels.

Again, at this year’s AMPA, we have submitted motions through District 27 CPAC and District 27 Executive to divest from fossil fuels. The divestment movement is an important one in the climate fight because it attacks the morality of the fossil fuel industry – an industry which, if it continues, translates into disastrous consequences for human life support systems.

The Educators’ Climate Alliance feels that educators need to have an honest discussion about fossil fuel investments. It seems counterproductive to rely on investments for future financial returns that ensure the devastation of the future for our children.

At AMPA, we hope that you consider our motions which are listed below. We hope that they generate discussion and interest. Our politicians at every level (union, municipal, provincial, federal) need to know that we are behind them to take bold action. We think these motions complement the EAWG motions, which do not address divestment specifically.

In the coming days, we will post the motions with rationale on our Educators Climate Alliance blog which you can follow if you’d like to receive all our posts. Consider liking our Facebook page or following us on Twitter: @EdClimate.

Check out some of our blog posts:

Will divestment put my pension at risk?

Why divestment if, arguably, it won’t hurt fossil fuel companies?

Keep it in the ground: why this is a matter of basic ethics

The Climate Change Opportunity [for Unions] 

Unions, Trade Deals, Climate and Democracy

CCPA makes the economic case for divestment

With respect and hope,

Educators’ Climate Alliance (Adam Davidson-Harden – District 27, William MacCallum – District 15, Justin Boyd – District 15, Anik Hahn – District 26, Kevin Bowers – District 27, Simon Baron – District 27, Andrea Loken – District 27, David Mathers – District 27, Joan Jardin – District 27)

MAC 227-16

BE IT RESOLVED THAT AMPA direct the Provincial Executive and the OTF Governors to request 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 2 years, as determined by the ‘Carbon Underground 200’.

PEN 203-16

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Policy 10.7 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 Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) should not invest in fossil fuel companies. Specifically, the OTPP and OMERS should stop any new investments in fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds as determined by the ‘Carbon Underground 200’ and should promote divestment until it is achieved.”

BYL 245-16

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Bylaw 9.5.2 be amended by the insertion of a new subsection that reads:

“No part of the Internal Investment Fund shall be invested in fossil fuel companies. Specifically, the Internal Investment Fund should strive to divest from fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 2 years as determined by ‘The Carbon Underground 200’.”

MAC 224-16

BE IT RESOLVED THAT OSSTF communicate to the Federal Government and the public that OSSTF opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, and state unequivocally that the Canadian Government should not be signatories to the TPP and/or should not ratify the TPP.

MAC 226-16

Cost Estimate: $10,000

BE IT RESOLVED THAT AMPA establish a work group that will investigate ways to support the education and community needs of refugees in Ontario.

The work group will be composed of the following: a) three bargaining unit presidents/leaders, with an interest in human rights, as selected by the Provincial Executive from applications; b) one Provincial CPAC member; c) one Provincial Executive member, assigned by the President; d) the Secretariat Liaisons assigned to CPAC.

The Work Group will report to Provincial Council, as appropriate, and submit an interim report with recommendations to AMPA 2017 and a final report with recommendations to AMPA 2018.


A Plethora of Climate Actions in November – Get involved!

May10-14 DefendOurClimate crowd

The whole globe is mobilizing! There are so many actions planned as we approach the December UN Climate Summit in Paris, we thought we would compile them here.

We are living in extraordinary times and people are quickly waking up to the climate crisis knowing we are running out of time to make decisions. Canada is has a new opportunity to change course with a new Prime Minister at the helm. Canadian Labour is getting on board realizing that the climate issue is OUR issue. Here are a few of the bigger actions taking place in November. Many of these actions are very accessible, designed to help community or small groups to be a part of a larger global action. Get involved!

November 5 – 8: Climate Welcome – Ottawa Action

“a series of serious, but gentle, civil disobedience actions starting November 5th to welcome Justin Trudeau to office and call on him to get to work on real climate action”

November 29: People’s Global Climate March: 100% Possible

“On the eve of the Paris Climate Summit, let’s show our new government that a 100% clean economy is 100% possible.”

The main event is in Ottawa:

Other events are planned world-wide, including Kingston:

November 30: Climate Strike – Global Student Action

“The adult generations have promised to stop the climate crisis, but they have skipped their homework year after year. Climate strike is a wake-up call to our own generation. And it is the start of a network that will solve the greatest challenge in human history. Together. We need your hands and hearts and smarts!”

November 30 – December 12: Climate Games – Global

“The world’s largest Disobedient Action Adventure Game

It’s December 2015. You have a heart filled with courage, a mobile phone and plans for creative mischief. Your team is ready to merge street and online disobedience. The COP21 UN climate summit is just opening in Paris. Manifestations of ‘the Mesh’ — austerity-dictating politicians, fossil fuel corporations, industry lobbyists, peddlers of false solutions and greenwashers – are converging to solve the climate catastrophe. Or so they tell us.

We are not convinced.

Your objective is to join the global movements swarming to shift the game against profit and in favour of life.

The Climate Games are where action-adventure meets actual change. Anyone can play this real-time, real-world game and turn Paris and the world into a giant, direct action playing field for climate justice. We have everything to play for – but time is running out.”

Science vs Economics: The need for economics ‘in a new key’

by Adam Davidson-Harden with Andrea Loken, Teachers, OSSTF Limestone District 27, ECA co-founders

Natural sciences are based on “the systematic observation of natural events and conditions in order to discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on these facts.” Natural science is based on evidence. It is in search of discovering “facts” about the observable world – the laws of nature – which are non-negotiable and already exist.

While all disciplines seek truth, economics, as a social science – as Marx and many others after him have pointed out – is tied to questions of politics, history, and competing ideologies. Social science is never ‘value-free’ or ‘neutral’. Current thinking in ‘ecological economics’, or in other schools of economics from left perspectives, deliberately embraces the rootedness of economics in certain sets of values, philosophies and ideologies that seek to meet human needs or promote true ecological sustainability. Orthodox (or in other terms, ‘neoclassical’ or ‘neoliberal’) economics, pretending as it does to be a ‘value-free’, predictive cousin to the natural sciences, is still laden with values, namely in the service of the status quo of neoliberal capitalism. Its position is clearly stated through its pretense to ‘objectivity’, in not asking – or even allowing – critical questions concerning social justice and ecological sustainability to enter into conversations about what ‘well-being’ means, economically. This market-centred, myopic way of looking at the world externalizes any question except profit or aggregate monetary values, expressed in traditional metrics like Gross Domestic Product. Of course, different schools of economics have innovated different metrics, though they have yet to gain any widespread acceptance by governments that ardently cling to our capitalist status quo.

Under the banner of a ‘value-free’ analysis, dominant schools of economics have fit comfortably into the neoliberal capitalist policy programme of ‘austerity’ – the deliberate impoverishment of states’ capacity to legislate and fund programs and policies in the public (social/ecological) interest. Such policies are always justified in the name of fiscal prudence, where social reforms must always bear the brunt of ‘belt-tightening’ (and concomitantly, corporate taxation must be reduced and social inequality allowed to grow). This continued attack on what French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu termed the ‘left hand of the state’, privileging the ‘right hand of the state’ in giving the advantage to the wealthy and corporations, has naturally resulted in a drift toward increasing inequality, including in Canada (or our corner of Turtle Island – see this video). The impoverishment of the state when it comes to fulfilling the realization of ‘social citizenship’ through programs such as adequately funded health care and education, or through adequately legislated and funded protections for our natural environments, must always take a back seat to priorities of profit-making. Austerity has increasingly been revealed for the neoliberal policy program that it is: a school of thought to externalize any substantive social or ecological concern, which works to increase social stratification and global inequality.

Ultimately then, following the insights of economics ‘in a different key’, we need a radically new vision of how economics should work. We need to stop letting the corporations and a few at the top dictate the plan. This necessity is painfully obvious today with respect to fossil fuel corporations and the reality of climate change. As Naomi Klein states: “We cannot solve this crisis without a profound ideological shift.” We can make up new rules for economics, but not for nature. Science and mother Earth will win. We might as well get on her side.

* * * * *

p.s. Please consider sharing our blog/posts and petition on your social media platform or share with friends and colleagues via email. If we are to affect change as quickly as is necessary, we really need everyone to become involved. All of us have a stake in our pensions and care about a planet that is livable in the future. The urgency is only going to become more and more apparent. No one is coming to save us. The power is within ourselves – each individual – to change the current system. We hope you can join the growing chorus!

Why divestment if, arguably, it won’t hurt fossil fuel companies?

by Andrea Loken, science Teacher and ECA co-founder

It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

Divestment is working – for what we want to achieve.

Divestment is not about hurting the fossil fuel companies in the short term. It may be true that within our current economic model, to sell off stocks in fossil fuel companies just means that someone else will buy them, causing no net harm and the industry will chug along.

Divestment is about exposing fossil fuel companies and the elites who run them as morally reprehensible; it is about choosing alternative, sustainable energy sources; and it is about creating a new model for our economic system that works for more than just the 1%.

On the first point: In one of the articles in the grounding breaking series about climate change published by the Guardian newspaper, an excellent analogy was made to slavery. Slavery was and is profitable. But as society has shifted its ideas, slavery is now considered by most to be an offensive practice. The human suffering and cost is simply not acceptable. Fossil fuel companies should be seen in this way. They should not be allowed to operate, let alone profit, at the cost of wrecking our life support systems.

Secondly, we already know how to produce energy sustainably. A new energy grid could be de-centralized, diverse and reliable. We can also become massively more efficient with local consumption and co-generation of energy. Communities around the world are already doing this. In addition, we need to stop viewing the planet as our smorgasbord – gluttonously consuming everything we can and treating the earth as our trash can. This mentality is fruitfully broken down by the good folks at the Story of Stuff Project.

Thirdly, as mentioned in our last post, our economic system isn’t working. It has worked wonderfully in the last 30 years to transfer wealth from the public sphere to a few elite. No one organism is more entitled to the earth’s resources than any other. But somehow we have become conditioned to believe that a certain amount of greed is okay; some people must work harder than others and therefore must deserve more. Here is an article (and the abridged version), written by a member of this super-elite who explains the folly in this type of thinking.

The same forces that have decimated indigenous people all over the world, have oppressed minorities of every kind, and fostered violence against women, are now attacking labour. The point is to divide and conquer – to have us fighting each other rather than working together to reject the corporate enslavement and build a better model. “Another world is possible,” is a common chant of youth at climate rallies and other protests all around the world. Make no mistake; we WILL build a better world and it may need to break the current system first. As climate activist, Tim DeChristopher, puts it in this speech, “maybe we are trying to ruin the economy.” We want nothing less than a world where everyone can thrive and prosper. It is entirely possible. Watch this profoundly moving video by spoken word artist Shane Koyczan. “We can do this.”

* * * * *

p.s. Please consider sharing our blog/posts and petition on your social media platform or share with friends and colleagues via email. If we are to affect change as quickly as is necessary, we really need everyone to become involved. All of us have a stake in our pensions and care about a planet that is livable in the future. The urgency is only going to become more and more apparent. No one is coming to save us. The power is within ourselves – each individual – to change the current system. We hope you can join the growing chorus!

Do you want to help build the Educators Climate Alliance?

We are building a grassroots movement within our unions (beginning with OSSTF and aiming to engage ETFO, OECTA, AEFO and CUPE) to address climate change. We know that educators and our unions are vital to the solutions. Awareness is growing by leaps and bounds and we want our unions to take their rightful places as leaders in the fight for social justice and human rights. We know we can do this. As columnist George Monbiot said recently in the Guardian, “It is a David v Goliath battle, but we believe it can be won.”

We want to help our leaders understand how important this is – not an ‘issue’, but a ‘civilization wake-up call’ [- Naomi Klein]. Therefore, we hope to inspire grassroots educators to do everything possible to make our voices heard. We should never underestimate our ability as individuals to inspire others.

We want to share our resources, but also tap into the talents of our fellow colleagues. You can find a downloadable flyer explaining what the ECA is trying to do here. If you are a member of an educators’ union and you would like to get things going in your district or your union, contact us. If you would like to write a blog post or share other expertise or resources, please contact us at

Please see our homepage and previous posts for more information.

Everything you wanted to ask about the Guardian’s #keepitintheground divestment campaign

The Educators Climate Alliance is calling on Ontario Educators to be leaders on climate action, too!

We hope you have joined 100,000+ to sign the Guardian’s petition. Please sign ours too! [here]

The Most Talked About Motions at AMPA: Climate Action + Divestment

by Andrea Loken, science Teacher and ECA co-founder

(You can sign our petition here.)

Of the four motions that Educators Climate Alliance submitted to last weekend’s Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly of OSSTF (AMPA), only one “hit the floor.” The motion was not passed, but the Education Climate Alliance can be proud that we pushed the conversation to the front of people’s minds. One campaign insider told me that the ECA motions were the most talked about motions at AMPA. The climate change conversations have started, and I am proud and happy that both our members and leadership are seriously contemplating climate change.

The Provincial Executive (PE) responded to our motions by tabling alternative motions that passed resoundingly. Although the Educators Climate Alliance is thrilled to have started this conversation, the alternative motions are not nearly ambitious enough in relation to the size and importance of the climate issue. It remains clear that our members and our leadership need to internalize just how urgent this matter is. As Naomi Klein puts it regarding the climate emergency, “We need to stop looking away.”

The ECA knows that teachers and educational workers care deeply about their students and will not stand by as our carbon investments directly undermine their future. Educators and their unions need to demonstrate moral leadership on this issue. The fact that the alternative motions passed resoundingly suggests that there is momentum and a hunger for greater change. The three motions that passed fall far short of our goal for a divestment work group and divestment of our internal funds, but we recognize them as important first steps:

The three resolutions were:

  • Moved that Account 4147 be increased by $5 000 to fund membership in the Climate Action Network Canada.
  • Moved that AMPA direct the Communications and Political Action Committee and Environmental Advisory Work Group to provide recommendations to the Provincial Executive on a comprehensive strategy to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Recommendations for the strategy will focus on how to educate members about the issue and how to mobilize members toward political action to achieve legislation and regulatory changes that will reduce emissions. The Provincial Executive will submit a report to AMPA 2016 on how to best educate and mobilize members.
  • Moved that AMPA direct the Communications and Political Action Committee and Environmental Advisory Work Group to provide recommendations to the Provincial Executive for a submission to the ministry of the Environment and Climate Change 2015 Climate Change Discussion consultation process.

In the coming days we will blog answers to the following questions raised at AMPA:

  1. I don’t want to do anything that will put our pensions at risk. Will divestment from fossil fuels put our pensions at risk?
  2. I agree that we need to do something to address climate change, but why did you choose the divestment strategy which arguably won’t hurt the fossil fuels companies?
  3. Why did you choose to target only the corporations on The Carbon Underground 200 list and not all fossil fuel companies?
  4. Is adopting a divestment plan even possible when our pension board has a fiduciary duty to its members?‎