News | Rally takes on “climate crime”

Investing in fossil fuels unethical and unsustainable, say protesters

On Friday September 8, around 300 students, activists, and community members gathered at Place Jean-Paul Riopelle, in front of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) building to rally against CDPQ’s investment in fossil fuels. The event was a collaboration between various NGOs, grassroots organizations, and student associations like the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), Sortons la Caisse du Carbone, Climate Justice Montreal, Climate Reality Canada, Mobilisation environment Ahunstic-Cartierville, Greenpeace Quebec, and the David Suzuki Foundation.

The protest was scheduled to coincide with the forty-sixth session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) taking place in Montreal from September 3-9. The IPCC is a panel where scientists discuss the most recent climate change assessment report.
The event was also part of a petition effort to divest CDPQ’s funds. CDPQ is a crown corporation that manages public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec, which are estimated to amount up to more than $270 billion CAD.

The petition by Climate Justice Montreal, “Get Off My Caisse,” explains that “$16.2 billion of this was invested in the oil and gas industry” last year alone, which contravenes the Paris Climate Agreement Canada signed in April 2017. The petition calls for the withdrawal of all fossil fuel investments in the next three years, as fossil fuels are “in the process of becoming strongly devalued,” both environmentally and financially. Protesters held banners, flags, and black balloons representing carbon in the atmosphere, which were popped at the end of the rally, symbolizing the rupturing of carbon bubble.

The Quebec Pension Plan and the fossil fuel industry

The Quebec Pension Plan is currently the largest pension fund in Canada, reaching an estimate of $16.7 billion CAD and coming second only to Ontario’s Canadian Pension Plan (CPP). The contributions to the plan are collected through an autonomic payroll deduction or through taxes on a customer’s bill, meaning consumers are unable to divest unless the Quebec Pension Plan as a whole does so. According to Diego Creimer, Communications Director of the David Suzuki Foundation, the lack of sustainable practices in CDPQ is not only “betting against our future, and the future of our children,” but also implicates those indirectly contributing to the fund as “accomplices to a climate crime.”

“Citizen groups, students, unions, and religious groups have decided to come to this rally today to show that there is no future in fossil fuels, that our collective money is at risk, and that by investing in fossil fuels, our pension funds are betting against the Paris Agreement,” said Creimer in an interview with The Daily.

“We are […] here today to ask our public administrator of pension funds to please bring our money out of fossil fuels,” he continued. “The urgency of the climate crisis does not need to be explained anymore. Hurricanes are basically becoming highly destructive because they are fueled by climate change, so the urgency is there, the science is there, now they have to present a plan to quickly divest.”

“The urgency of the climate crisis does not need to be explained anymore. Hurricanes are basically becoming highly destructive because they are fueled by climate change, so the urgency is there, the science is there, now they have to present a plan to quickly divest.”

Fossil fuels: environmentally and financially unsustainable

Creimer also noted the financial instability of fossil fuel investments in the long run: “they need to have a plan to get out of fossil fuels in the short term, not only environmentally but financially as well. […] We are putting our money at risk because the […] transition to clean and new technology is inevitable, and fossil fuel assets are going to abruptly lose their value.”
“We’re investing more and more money into an industry that’s going to pop,” agreed Kristen Perry, the Coordinator of Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ). “We need to be moving those investments away into something that’s not only better ethically but also better for our finances.”

“We’re investing more and more money into an industry that’s going to pop. […] We need to be moving those investments away into something that’s not only better ethically but also better for our finances.”

Perry stressed the role of student engagement and putting pressure on the administration to move toward socially responsible investment.“For AVEQ, it’s really important that we are working on climate change. […] Students […] know that it’s time for us to use our position in our institutions like McGill, like Concordia, to Caisse, to say that ‘we don’t want our money going towards investing in something that’s going to be destroying our future.’ We want to invest in solutions—things that are going to support us and the environment, supporting Indigenous peoples, and fossil fuels do not do any of that. […] We’re calling for McGill University to divest from fossil fuels, and likewise, we are calling for Caisse to divest from fossil fuels,” said Perry.

“We want to invest in solutions—things that are going to support us and the environment, supporting Indigenous peoples, and fossil fuels do not do any of that. […] We’re calling for McGill University to divest from fossil fuels, and likewise, we are calling for Caisse to divest from fossil fuels.”

Impact of pipeline projects on Indigenous communities

While the Paris Agreement commits the government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, the Canadian government has simultaneously expanded oil production through the pipeline projects. This has not only caused environmental damage, but has also resulted in social consequences that have disproportionately affected the Indigenous population.

Charlene Aleck, a spokesperson from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, told the audience, “We are greatly affected by the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion […] which these folks have invested their money in. […] From day one, our whole nation has 100 per cent opposed this pipeline expansion and the effects it brings to our community.”

“The drill bit that would become a pipeline would contaminate our backyard, and our kitchen sink, […] the waters our territory has given us […] and sustained us. […] All our traditional foods […] are greatly affected by the industry that we have opposed,” continued Aleck.

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation launched a campaign against the planned expansion of the Kinder Morgan and Trans Mountain pipeline in May 2017. The Nation circulated a report regarding the risks of the investments in partnership with West Coast Environmental Law. “With this [we] ask that these investors take a look at the […] point we are at today, to change away from fossil fuels to green energy,” concluded Aleck.

“From day one, our whole nation has 100 per cent opposed this pipeline expansion and the effects it brings to our community. […] The drill bit that would become a pipeline would contaminate our backyard, and our kitchen sink, […] the waters our territory has given us […] and sustained us. […] All our traditional foods […] are greatly affected by the industry that we have opposed.”

Eugene Kung, an environmental lawyer working on the prevention of the expansion of tar sands infrastructure told the audience, “There have never been more forest fires. […] When we left Vancouver yesterday, you could see the mountains, the sun, the clouds completely clouded by smoke. […] Our public institutions need to stop, […] not just because it’s a financial decision, but it’s a moral decision now. […] This is about the future.”


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