Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns Buoyed by Student Victories
Vancouver, BC – The fossil fuel divestment movement got a boost this week with student victories at three of the largest Universities in western Canada. Student unions and societies at the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia all took stances this week in support of divesting from coal, oil, gas and pipeline companies.
“This is a huge step for these schools, and a sign to Universities across Canada that fossil fuel divestment is not going away,” said Cameron Fenton, National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition - the organization coordinating divestment efforts across Canada. “Students aren’t slowing down or taking no for an answer.”
Representing over one hundred thousand students collectively, these student groups now have a mandate to push BC Universities to address the climate change and human rights impacts of their investments in fossil fuels.
“Investments in fossil fuels condone the environmental and human rights abuses associated with resource extraction based industries,” said University of Victoria Student Society chairperson Kelsey Mech. “By continuing to invest in fossil fuels, we ensure that our futures are entrenched in the status quo rather than alternative and renewable options.”
These three victories point to growing momentum behind the call to divest, which has been bolstered by recent support from World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and UN Climate Secretary Christiana Figueres along with an announcement that 17 foundations have joined together to divest $2 billion.
“We’re one of over thirty campus campaigns across Canada and over five hundred around the world all calling for the same thing; for our schools to get out of the business of climate change and start investing in solutions,” said Andhra Azevedo, a divestment organizer at Simon Fraser University when the four main student associations have all endorsed divestment.
At the University of British Columbia three quarters of students voted in favour of divestment in a school-wide referendum.
“With this referendum, weʼre building on the already huge support we built last fall at UBC, and now we have the Alma Matter Society on side,” said Molly Henry, a coordinator with the UBC Divestment campaign. “Students across BC and Canada are calling on our schools to be leaders on climate change and divest.”
To date no school in Canada has divested, but in October 2013 the city of Vancouver began a process to pursue divestment at the city level.
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