From the Guardian newspaper: “Investors who dumped holdings in coal, oil and gas earned an average return of 1.2% more a year over last five years, data from the world’s leading stock market index reveals.”
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:
- I don’t want to do anything that will put our pensions at risk. Will divestment from fossil fuels put our pensions at risk?
- 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?
- Why did you choose to target only the corporations on The Carbon Underground 200 list and not all fossil fuel companies?
- Is adopting a divestment plan even possible when our pension board has a fiduciary duty to its members?
On the “Fossil Free Indexes: The Carbon Underground 2015” website, it states:
“The Carbon Underground 200 identifies the top 100 public coal companies globally and the top 100 public oil and gas companies globally, ranked by the potential carbon emissions content of their reported reserves. The reserves of these companies total 555 gigatons (Gt) of potential CO2 emissions, almost five times more than can be burned for the world to have an 80% chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2°C (3.6° F).”
Find ‘The Carbon Underground 200’ here under the tab ‘Rankings’:
Many people make the argument against divestment that it will not succeed in harming the fossil fuel companies because others will invest.
The point of divestment is not to financially harm these massive corporations. (As things begin to get much hotter, financial harm will eventually occur by what world economic experts call the “carbon bubble”.) The point of divestment is to morally tarnish fossil fuel interests and shift the paradigm to a clean energy future that is actually sustainable. OTPP already subscribes to the UN’s “Principles of Responsible Investment”. The OTPP should now sign on to the UN’s “Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition”. This will signal the Plan’s intent to lead the way, as one of the most successful institutional funds in the world, to a saner, more livable world for all – and to a more solid financial future for its members. We want OMERS to do the same.
The ECA believes we will have a MORE successful pension fund by divesting, but we cannot look our children in the eye and say that we are not willing to take any financial risks to have an Earth that supports life. We have a decade to get off fossil fuels. Maybe less. It is just that simple. Let’s act.
This video shows excerpts from a powerful speech Naomi Klein gave at the first meeting of UNIFOR in September 2013. https://vimeo.com/74020375