Environment featured Media release

News release: Student pressure puts divestment back on the table at Dalhousie University

November 22, 2017

For Immediate Release:

Today, students at Dalhousie University addressed the board of governors calling on them to revisit fossil fuel divestment.

K’JIPUKTUK/HALIFAX, NS – Alex Ayton, a student at Dalhousie University, didn’t mince words in her address to Dalhousie President, Richard Florizone, and the university’s Board of Governors. Her intervention was granted in the wake of a week-long, student-led campout that saw dozens occupy the Quad in front of the iconic Henry Hicks Building.

With the onslaught of climate-related events, particularly in the past year, Divest Dal was emboldened to get the issue of divestment back in front of Board of Governors at today’s meeting — an issue that Dalhousie’s Board of Governors have avoided since they voted against divestment in 2014, despite sustained student support.

Alex Ayton, who addressed the board, was at the campout since it was set up. She says much has changed since the university voted against divestment: “With global warming approaching 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial averages, climate-change fuelled events are hammering down. We’ve all seen images hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, Ophelia and Maria, and the impacts closer to home like the wildfires that swept BC this summer, and Fort McMurray the summer before that. These disasters are increasing in frequency and severity and are not-so-gentle reminders of the toll of a fossil-fuelled world.”

She said that even the financial landscape has changed. “The last time this Board discussed divestment, 50 billion dollars had been divested globally. Today, over 700 institutions have divested well over 5 trillion dollars, including heavy hitters like the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. Why are they divesting? Because fossil fuels are a sunset industry in a carbon constrained world. Because we need to keep most fossil fuels in the ground, making oil, gas, and coal companies a terrible investment.”

After Ayton’s intervention at the Board meeting, a Dalhousie Student Union board representative put forward a motion supported by Divest Dal, which would commit the university to engaging in a third research to explore investment funds that could implement the changes proposed in the Senate’s Report on Fossil Fuel Divestment, and would put divestment to a vote at the next Board meeting in February. Divest Dal is waiting to hear how to motion was received, and expect a statement from the Dalhousie Student Union on that in the coming days.

Climate change will only worsen if we don’t act, says Laura Cutmore. “climate change is a crisis that cannot be addressed without a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels to a 100% renewable energy economy — a transition that won’t happen until institutions around the world break from the stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry. Inaction on behalf of the Board is an assault on our future. No more excuses, Dal.

See a livestream of Ay’s address to the Board here.