Climate on campus

Laval becomes first university in Canada to divest from fossil fuels

3-month student campaign leads to public commitment from Quebec university
Photo: Shaun Crawford

Sometimes all it takes is three months. That’s how long a student group at Quebec City’s Laval University has been campaigning for their school to divest from fossil fuels. On Wednesday they got yes for an answer, when Laval became the first Canadian university to commit to divest from all fossil fuel holdings.

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“Today, Université Laval commits to taking responsible action to switch its endowment fund investments in fossil energy to other types of investments, such as renewable energy,” said Éric Bauce, executive vice rector in charge of sustainable development, in a statement on the university website.

The statement confirmed that Laval is the “first university in Canada to do so” and also announced its ranking as second in the world in sustainable development on the STARS index of universities.

As part of an ongoing commitment to improve its sustainable development practices, the university “will take concrete steps to improve in two key areas—eating and investing responsibly.”

In order to divest, it “will form a responsible investment advisory committee, including student representatives, who will be tasked with recommending methods, practices, and actions. Furthermore, an annual progress report on the investment transition will be released.”

"Laval University is demonstrating what climate leadership really looks like. It’s time for others to follow suit."

The student group, which is called ULaval sans fossiles, formed last November to pressure the administration to divest. Delighted with the announcement, it posted “VICTORY!” to its Facebook page in French. “Laval University has become the first university in Canada to make a public and formal commitment to divest from fossil fuels, thanks to the pressure of our campaign. Thanks to everyone for your support!”

The student group told Quebec City daily Le Soleil it intends to remain active, and keep a watchful eye on the university’s implementation of divestment.

"This commitment will no doubt be a huge boost for the hundreds of students across the country also pushing to have their administrations do the same," Katie Perfitt, Canada divestment organizer for 350.org, told Ricochet by email. "Laval University is demonstrating what climate leadership really looks like. It’s time for others to follow suit."

This is the largest victory yet for Canada’s student-led divestment movement, which has chapters on university campuses across the country and draws its inspiration from the international divestment movement popularized by 350.org.

This article was updated on Feb. 15, 9:31 p.m. EST, to incorporate comments from 350.org organizer Katie Perfitt.

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