Despite months of protests and petitions, McGill University's board of governors has rejected calls to rid its $1.4-billion endowment of investments in fossil fuels.

The student-led group Divest McGill had demanded the university reinvest in "more environmentally, socially and economically responsible alternatives."

The group had secured the support of university student unions and the university's faculty of arts, and last year submitted a report to the university outlining the arguments in favour of divestment.

But in a letter to students and staff, Suzanne Fortier, McGill's principal and vice-chancellor, said Wednesday the school's Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) "does not recommend divestment at present."

Fortier said the CAMSR met nine times to discuss the report, but ultimately decided against following through on its recommendations.

Instead, McGill will focus on undertaking a "series of important actions to promote sustainability and to advance understanding of climate change," Fortier said.

'Not only myopic, but shameful'

Divest McGill slammed the decision, calling the move "not only myopic, but shameful."

'This is the sort of thing that leads people to lose faith in the integrity of the institution and its governance.' - Darin Barney, McGill University professor

"They say they agree with the science, but they don't seem to know what it means to act accordingly," David Summerhays, a former student, said in a statement.

Another group, the McGill Faculty and Librarians for Divestment, also denounced the university's decision.

"This is the sort of thing that leads people to lose faith in the integrity of the institution and its governance," said professor Darin Barney. 

The university's endowment was valued at $1.4 billion at the end of April 2015, according to a university report. 

UBC student rally on divestment

There are divestment groups at universities across Canada, including the University of British Columbia. (UBCC350)

Roughly six per cent of its holdings are in fossil fuel companies, according to Divest McGill. 

The fossil fuel divestment movement started in the U.S. and has spread across North America, including such Canadian institutions as the University of Ottawa, the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia and Dalhousie University.

But schools have been reluctant to heed calls to steer clear of fossil fuels.

Divest McGill said it would be meeting in the coming days to determine its next steps, adding "that it will not stop fighting for divestment."