Dear Board of Governors of McGill University,
We write to you in light of the recent request to divest the university’s endowment from fossil fuel companies. We urge you to consider this request very seriously. Those of us who have signed the petition – students, faculty, staff and alumni – have done so because we are acutely aware that the issue of climate change merits urgent action. We stand with over 300 other universities across North America who are working on the same initiative, along with several municipalities and other institutions.
McGill’s mission statement is as follows:
“The Mission of McGill University is the advancement of learning through teaching, scholarship and service to society.”
The question we are asking you to consider is whether the endowment fund is exempt from McGill’s mission to serve the community, students and research.
The endowment is one way that we work to ensure the long-term well-being of our university. Our well-being, however, can not be measured solely in financial terms. It is inseparable from vital human and social aspects, and ultimately tied to the health of the planet on which we live. The science is clear: carbon emissions are causing rapid climate change worldwide. Thorough research from the Carbon Tracker Initiative has demonstrated that in order to avoid catastrophic climate disruption, 80 per cent of the oil, coal and gas in the current reserves of fossil fuel companies needs to stayunderground. In light of our obligations to the planet, to each other, and to ourselves, students and other members of the McGill community have been working together towards creating a sustainable campus. Given these efforts, we are compelled to ask whether sustainability projects funded by money from unsustainable industries are ultimately self-defeating. To be a true leader in sustainability, it is imperative that we align our money with our mission.
As Bill McKibben, a prominent leader for climate action, states “It just doesn’t make sense for universities to invest in a system that will leave their students no livable planet to use their degrees on.” The fossil fuel industry’s business plan depends upon maximizing the combustion of carbon-based fuels. History shows their attempts to protect this climate-altering plan, with companies such as ExxonMobil spending dozens of millions of dollars on phony climate science. Fossil fuel companies have also spent millions a year on lobbying and campaign contributions. Obviously, the industry is prioritizing private profit over the interests of humanity, and all other species on Earth.
It is clear that universities have a particular obligation to cultivate a healthy society and planet, and that funding the destruction of our future is in direct conflict with this goal. Right now, McGill has the opportunity to take a strong moral stance on one of our era’s most pressing issues through divestment from harmful fossil fuels. By using its financial and social influence, McGill can promote positive change towards maintaining a livable Earth for all of us. Surely, that is a future worth supporting.