Montreal

McGill's board of directors stands by fossil fuel investments

McGill University’s board of governors is standing firm in its position not to divest from fossil fuel producing companies despite a growing movement that’s pushing for the institution to do so.

Student group says 60 alumni have pledged to return diplomas to protest board's position

Students take part in a sit in in front of McGill's James Administration building at the end of March. (Facebook)

McGill University's board of governors is standing firm in its position not to divest from fossil fuel producing companies despite a growing movement that's pushing for the institution to do so.

Daybreak speaks with Karel Mayrand and Chloé Laflamme over growing anger at McGill University at the school's position that fossil fuel use and the activities of the top 200 fossil fuel companies do not cause "grave injurious impact in the world." 10:10

In an interview with CBC Montreal's Daybreak Monday, board chair Stuart "Kip" Cobbett said the benefits of divesting in terms of fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be negligible.

"We don't see that divesting from fossil fuels will do one thing to improve or attenuate global warming," he said.

In March, the board rejected calls to rid its $1.4-billion endowment of investments in fossil fuels based on a review by its Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility.

That position led to a sit-in in front of McGill's administrative offices by Divest McGill, a student group that wants the university to reinvest in "more environmentally, socially and economically responsible alternatives."

According to the group, 60 McGill alumni have now pledged to return their diplomas to protest the board's position, and 19 have already done so.

Cobbett said the idea of alumni returning their McGill diplomas fills the board with "a degree of sadness," but it wouldn't sway its position.

"These are diplomas for which they've worked very hard, so obviously it's an emotional and a sad occasion when they [return] them, but it is testimony to how strongly they feel about this issue," he said.

"I can still think of no reason why divesting will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And that's what it's all about," he said.

Cobbett said rather than divesting, McGill has committed $10 million per year in funding for green chemistry and other sustainable initiatives.

"I'm absolutely convinced that we've made the right decision in the best interests of McGill, and that's what the Board of Governors is there to do," he said.

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