Nearly five months after hearing a presentation from students on why the University should divest from the fossil fuel industry, the Trent University Board of Governors is set to make a decision in response to the proposal, championed by the student group Sustainable Trent. This Thursday, June 19th, Board members will be discussing divestment at their meeting at Bata Library, Trent University.
On January 31st, 2014, Sustainable Trent members Julian Tennent-Riddell and Calvin Beauchesne made their case to the Board that divestment from fossil fuels would not only be the ethical choice (due to the implications of climate change and destructive resource extraction), but would also be financially prudent, aligned with Trent’s mission statement, and beneficial for the University’s reputation as a leader in environmental sustainability.
Sustainable Trent has been working on this campaign for well over a year now. In March 2013, the organization held a referendum on divestment in the campus-wide student election, which resulted in 76% of voters in favour of the proposal. A number of organizations have endorsed the fossil fuel divestment campaign, including the contract faculty union CUPE Local 3908, Trent Central Student Association, Trent Part-Time Student Association, OPIRG Peterborough, and the Council of Canadians – Peterborough Chapter. Additionally, an online petition calling for Trent to divest from fossil fuels has garnered over 950 signatures.
This local campaign is part of a large international movement which has seen dozens of institutions, including colleges and universities, churches and foundations, divest their funds from fossil fuels. Despite many student campaigns in Canada, no Canadian university has yet committed to divest. According to student divestment campaigner Julian Tennent-Riddell, “Trent University has a unique opportunity to be the first university in Canada to divest from fossil fuels, strengthening its reputation as a leader in environmental sustainability, and distinguishing itself as an innovative leader among post-secondary institutions.”
Student advocates believe that divestment would be a win-win move for Trent, honouring the concerns of Trent students about climate change while avoiding the financial risks associated with fossil fuel companies. If governments take action to reduce carbon emissions, these companies could be forced to keep a large amount of their fossil fuel reserves underground, causing what financial analysts are calling the “carbon bubble.”
Student campaigners are eagerly awaiting the Board’s decision. “I hope that the Board of Governors will make the ethical, responsible, and financially prudent decision this Thursday, to divest their endowment fund from fossil fuels,” says Tennent-Riddell. “This is our chance to be on the right side of history.”