Student groups asking Feds to divest from fossil fuels

A&nbsp;group of students under the WPIRG banner are fighting to get Feds, and eventually the university as a whole, to divest from fossil fuels.&nbsp;</p>

The group, Waterloo 350, aims to have Feds begin divesting in the near future. The past two board of directors meetings have had divestment on the agenda. The conversation was tabled the first time, and after a discussion at the most recent meeting, the board decided to defer the  decision to students’ council. 

“Divestment is … taking out investments from a specific company or industry,” said Javier Fuentes, a founding member of Waterloo 350. Anyone who has invested in stocks can choose to divest their money. The university’s investments come from its endowment funds, which totals nearly $300 million.

Waterloo 350 is looking for Feds and the university to divest from any corporation in the business of producing, or transporting fossil fuels. 

“Our end goal is basically a fossil fuel-free campus,” said Fuentes. But they are not looking to speed through the process. 

“We want to build some grassroots support first and actually build a case for divestment and show the university that students are behind this initiative before we go to the [administration],” Fuentes said. 

“It was a very philosophical and social motion, and we wanted to give students more of an opportunity to be part of the discussion for that,” Feds president Danielle Burt said as to why the motion presented to board was deferred to students’ council. 

Burt said council will discuss the possibility of divestment and councillors will be charged with getting feedback from their constituents before anything is voted on. She also said the board’s newly formed risk assessment committee, of which she is chair, will examine the financial aspects of divesting. 

Waterloo 350 is a core group of about 10 people and is looking to grow. It has formally been around since Fall 2014 and until now has mostly been in the planning stages. Part of its plans are to look for faculty support, which Fuentes said was a key aspect of successful divestment groups at other universities. 

“The cool thing about divestment is that it’s very different from other environmental movements,” Fuentes said, adding that it goes beyond the social or moral pressure involved in many environmental causes. 

The current governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, and Jim Yong Kong, president of the World Bank, have publicly declared their support for the financial argument for divestment. 

Stanford University made history last year when they announced plans to divest from fossil fuels. Currently, no Canadian universities have completely divested. 

Fuentes said Waterloo 350’s long-term goal is to see the university freeze all new investments into the fossil fuel industry and in the next five years be completely divested.

The issue will be discussed at the March 8 students’ council meeting in the SLC’s multi-purpose room.


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