SFU 350 is a club engaging students in Climate action and pushing SFU to Divest from fossil fuels. For the last two and a half years, SFU350 has teamed up with Embark to create the DivestSFU Campaign which has a broad base of support from students, faculty, and alumni. SFU350 has presented divestment many times to SFU’s Board of Governors and small steps have been made. However, the time to gear-up through student-led direct action has come. The following is a short Q & A with SFU 350 to better understand the concept of divestment.
Q. What is Divestment?
A: Divestment is the withdrawing of investments - for instance in stocks and bonds - from industries that negatively impact society. The fossil fuel industry, in particular, has had an arguably destructive impact on the environment in driving climate change. When universities invest their money in these industries, however, they are, in a sense, giving them “social license” to operate in our communities, despite the overwhelming amount of scientific data and academic initiatives promoting the contrary. Divestment, therefore, is a powerful move on the part of influential institutions such as universities to weaken the hold of the oil and gas titans on our economy and government.
Q. Why should SFU Divest its endowment funds from the fossil fuel industry?
A: The severity and urgency of the situation facing communities impacted by climate change has increased dramatically, and many will lose their homes, livelihoods, and lives in the following decades. In fact, the UN predicts that there will be 100 - 150 million people displaced by climate change related phenomenon by 2050. Students have recognized this increased urgency and are calling on SFU to acknowledge that, as a research and learning institution, the university has an obligation to remove its investments from the fossil fuel industry which is actively obstructing a clean energy future.
Q. Who is SFU350?
A: SFU350 is a student organisation that engages the SFU community in meaningful action against climate change in pursuit of a more sustainable world. Currently, SFU350 is a lead organizer of the DivestSFU campaign, a coalition of students, faculty, staff, and alumni of SFU. SFU350 was founded on 3 July, 2013.
Q. Why 350?
A: "350" refers to '350 parts per million', the ratio of carbon dioxide molecules to all other molecules in Earth's atmosphere recognized by climate scientists as the 'safe' upper limit of Earth's atmosphere. The Earth currently stands at 400 parts per million. (More information on 350.org)
Q. How is SFU350 working to help SFU divest from fossil fuels?
A: SFU350 is building networks of support for divestment from fossil fuels with SFU students and faculty and we advocate for divestment at the Board of Governors (who make the decisions regarding finances for the university) level. To date we have over 1000 individual signatories supporting divestment and the support of the SFSS, GSS, SFPIRG, Embark, and many student unions. Our work - meeting with the Board of Governors individually, attending Board meetings, and speaking with staff - have resulted in a Responsible Investment Committee being established and the University signing onto the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment. These are exciting steps but we continue to call for full divestment from fossil fuels.
Q. How can students, faculty, and members of the community get involved?
A: You can get involved by signing our Direct Action Pledge in which they can commit to taking some form of action - a sit-in or demonstration for instance - if the university does not resolve to divest from the top 100 oil and gas companies within five years. You can also sign our petition and attend meetings for the Responsible Investment Committee and the Board of Governors to show your support of divestment. If you’re a high school student, you can write to the SFU registrar to communicate how important this issue is to you as a prospective student. If you’re an alumni who donates money to the university, you can similarly contact the school about how much divestment means to you in terms of the way your donations are used.
Q. What is your final vision with the Divest SFU campaign?
A: We are looking for complete divestment of fossil fuels from SFU’s endowment fund. This means we are calling on SFU to commit to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies within the next five years. We are pushing for SFU to first commit to divestment from fossil fuels and then draft a responsible investment policy and a framework that will allow SFU to meet the commitment over the course of the next five years.