Today at noon, concerned citizens will be at the corner of West Broadway and Bayswater Street to try to boost pressure on institutional investors to dump shares in fossil-fuel companies.
It's part of 400 Global Divestment Day events taking place around the world.
“We are worried for the future of our children, and the environmental disaster they will have to deal with; we feel that divesting away from fossil fuels is an efficient tool to get closer to a sustainable future” Jennifer Angeli, a parent from Kitsilano, said in a statement announcing the event. "We want to talk to our neighbours about how divestment can make a difference.”
The movement for divestment has gathered momentum on campuses around the world, including at UBC, SFU, and UVic.
UBC students voted overwhelmingly in favour of this. That was followed by faculty voting 62 percent in favour of UBC divesting.
Students at Queen's University have also voted to urge administrators to dump shares in fossil-fuel companies. Meanwhile, the University of Toronto has launched a presidential committee to review this idea.
Divestment is rooted in the realization that fossil-fuel companies cannot possibly burn all of their reserves without releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases, which will cause untold death and misery on Earth.
According to the activist group 350.org, we can only emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and remain below 2°C of warming since preindustrial times.
However, corporations have 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide listed in their reserves.
The logic of divestment is that this carbon dioxide will never be burned because the outcome would be utterly devastating. Therefore, fossil-fuel companies will have to keep these assets stranded.
This, in turn, means the companies are not worth nearly as much as their market value suggests. And this will inevitably lead to writedowns, so institutional investors who ignore this arithmetic are putting their clients in financial jeopardy.
This, of course, should lead these institutional investors to dump their shares or else face severe consequences.
However, universities are sometimes reluctant to take this action because they often approach fossil-fuel companies for money in their big capital fundraising campaigns.
University administrators also recognize that it's going to be hard to get ExxonMobil, for instance, to fund an academic chair if the same university is joining a global campaign to force down the value of ExxonMobil shares.
That's why we can expect this controversy to remain in the news for a while.