On November 15, activist groups in Montreal convened in front of Caisse de Dépot et de Placement du Québec’s (CDPQ) headquarters to rally against investments in pipeline projects. CDPQ is a crown corporation that manages public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec. Groups such Leap Montreal and Stand up with Standing Rock held signs that read “CDPQ no tap” urging them to divest from the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), connecting the gas fields of Azerbaijan to the European market through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Albania and Italy. The TAP is currently in construction, and scheduled to be implemented in 2020, and would pump up to 10 billion cubic meters of gas across Europe.
“I took part of a collective action along people in Europe and in Canada in order to push finance actors to divest from Trans-Adriatic Pipeline. Our action in Montreal has lighted up Caisse de Dépot et de Placement du Québec’s investment,” said Guillaume Durin, a member of the Stand Up with Standing Rock.
The Trans Adriatic Pipeline
The event was organized to condemn CDPQ’s affiliation with Fluxys, a Belgian based natural gas infrastructure company which owns 16 per cent of shares in the TAP. According to a petition by Climate Justice Montreal, CDPQ has invested 16.2 billion in oil and gas last year. Moreover, 16.4 per cent of the CDPQ’s public equity holdings were in carbon-intensive energy and materials sectors. This has prompted criticism against CDPQ, such as the petition “Get off my Caisse”, urging CDPQ to obtain informed consent on any resource extraction project taking place on Indigenous territories. This September, a protest was organized by various grassroots to speak out against CDPQ’s investment practices.
While TAP is a project based overseas, CDPQ signed an agreement in 2011, allowing the CDPQ to acquire a stake in Fluxys, with a capital increase of up to €150 million. The same year, CDPQ increased their investments with an additional €210 million, raising its stake from 10 per cent to 20 per cent.
“The [CDPQ] owns shares of the company Fluxys who is one of the main developers of [the] TAP,” said Nicolas Chevalier, the Co-Founder of Leap Montreal. “This project directly puts the local environment [at risk] but will have a global impact as well. In a context of global […] warming and where an effort has to be made from the bank to invest in renewable […] energy, TAP does not have its place.”
Earlier this year, the CDPQ announced a “decarbonated” policy, a mandate to increase investments in low-carbon assets by more than $8 billion, and commit to cutting its carbon footprint by 25 per cent per dollar invested. However, according to Durin, CDPQ still owns 19 per cent of Fluxys, which makes CDPQ complicit in a “climaticide project.”
The event held on November 15 was part of an international effort to pressure financial groups owning TAP shares to divest. The Paris agreement signed in April 2016 commits countries to ensuring that the global average temperature does not increase by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
“TAP is not a local issue. It is not even a European issue anymore,” explained Chevalier. Given that existing fossil fuel operations already exceed the carbon budget, NGOs like 350.org published an open letter, arguing that the TAP would sabotage the European climate targets agreed upon during the Paris agreement. However, the TAP began its construction in Albania in July 2015.
On October 23 2017, 15,000 scientists from 184 countries endorsed a global warning regarding the urgency of the climate crisis and its imminent effects. The letter addressed to the president of the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, calls on the European Union to immediately withdraw its support for the TAP, stressing that the ‘TAP would lock Europe into fossil fuels for decades’. On November 14, the European Investment Bank approved a 9.2 billion budget financing climate action projects in 16 countries.
Chevalier hopes to extend these efforts to Montreal, demanding that actors such as the CDPQ do not participate in the financing of the TAP. “Activists in Canada have joined the wave of protest against the mega gas pipeline,” said Chevalier.
“With citizens’ action and commitment, climate justice can be achieved. Disinvesting is one of the key elements to go forward with this goal,” said Isabelle L’héritier, a member of L’eau de la Terre c’est sacre. L’héritier emphasized Montreal’s support for mobilizing against the TAP, with activist groups such as the Coalition for Climate Justice Montreal and Leap Montreal.