Support for fossil fuel divestment is an official part of the Trent Central Student Association’s policy as of February 2014, as shown in the By-Laws, Policies, & Operating Resolutions policy book of 2014-2015.
You can access that document here. Fossil fuel divestment is on page 68.
The policy resolution reads as follows:
“Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies
The Association recognizes that climate change is a serious threat to current and future generations here at Trent University and around the world. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report found that global warming is already causing costly disruption of human and natural systems throughout the world including the melting of Arctic ice, the ocean’s rise in acidity, flooding, and drought.
Almost every government in the world has agreed through the 2009 Copenhagen Accord that any warming above a 2°C (3.6°F) rise would be unsafe, and that humans can only burn about 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide without exceeding this limit.
For the purposes of this policy, a “fossil fuel company” shall be defined as any of the two hundred publicly-traded companies with the largest coal, oil, and gas reserves, as measured by the gigatons of carbon dioxide that would be emitted if those reserves were extracted and burned, as listed in the report Unburnable Carbon.
The Unburnable Carbon report, published by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, found that fossil fuel companies possess proven fossil fuel reserves that would release approximately 2,795 gigatons of CO2 if they are burned, which is five times the amount that can be released without exceeding 2°C of warming. This math demonstrates that fossil fuel companies are putting the planet at risk of catastrophic global warming and climate change, while profiting from the destruction.
These facts also demonstrate a major financial risk associated with investments in fossil fuels. If governments take action to honour their emissions reduction targets, 80% of fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground, rendering the majority of the industry’s assets obsolete. This puts Trent University’s pension and endowment funds at risk from an enormous carbon bubble. The Association asserts that the financially prudent move is to manage that risk proactively by removing funds from fossil fuel company assets.
The companies in the Unburnable Carbon report such as Shell, Exxon, and Peabody Energy also have a poor track with respect to human rights. These companies are often found guilty of violating treaties with Indigenous peoples, not taking full responsibility for oil spills and other environmental disasters, and causing serious health problems among people living in close proximity of their extractive operations.
One of the objectives in Trent University’s Mission Statement is to “foster sustainability, in its environmental, social, and economic dimensions, on our campuses and in all aspects of our work.” Given the fact that the fossil fuel industry is currently on a path that is environmentally, socially and economically unsustainable, the Association asserts that investments in fossil fuel companies are therefore incompatible with this Mission Statement. Students of Trent University believe that investments should support a future where all citizens can live healthy, dignified lives without the negative impacts of a warming climate and human rights violations.
The Association urges the Trent University President and Board of Governors to:
- Immediately cease any new investments in fossil fuel companies or in commingled assets that include holdings in fossil fuel companies.
- Contact the fund managers and request that the fossil fuel companies be removed from the funds
- Ensure that none of their 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.
- Prepare a report and options for investing the endowment in a way that further maximizes the positive impact of the fund by seeking out investments in opportunities to limit the effects of burning fossil fuels or help to mitigate its effects including, but not limited to, clean technology, renewable energy, sustainable companies or projects, and sustainable communities.
- Release quarterly updates, available to the public, detailing progress made towards full divestment.”