Students gather at a fossil fuel divestment march in front of Simcoe Hall earlier this year. COURTESY MILAN ILNYCKYJ.

Following over three years of student led advocacy and the striking of a Presidential Advisory Committee on Divestment from Fossil-Fuels, the University of Toronto will not be adopting recommendations to divest immediately from firms complicit in anthropogenic climate change, according to a copy of the official administrative response obtained by The Varsity.

The presidential response, titled “Beyond Divestment: Taking Decisive Action on Climate Change,” has yet to be released through the university’s official channels.

In the response’s executive summary, U of T President Meric Gertler downplayed the recommended benefits of fossil fuel divestment, suggesting that “such firms only account for one-quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, with the balance produced by other sectors such as transportation, housing and manufacturing.”

“Building on the Committee’s advice, an approach that considers ESG [environmental, social, and governance] factors – including climate-related risk – as they pertain to all sectors of our economy would seem to offer the best chance of success in meeting the challenge of climate change, while fulfilling our fiduciary duties to the University’s pension and endowment fund beneficiaries.”

In place of wholesale divestment, the administrative response proposes several strategic approaches to responsible investment towards decreasing the university’s carbon footprint, as well as bolstering its role as a centre for innovation and education.

Regarding the university’s role as an investor, the response suggests directing the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM) to “articulate principles that will enable consideration of ESG factors in undertaking direct investments,” in addition to other recommendations that would see the university initiate processes to become a signatory of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), as well as evaluate adoption of the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment initiative.

Commitments to enhancing the university’s role as an institution of higher learning and innovation hub include earmarking $750,000 for “Climate-Change Related Research and Education Initiatives” to be disbursed over the next three years.

An official response to the Report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Divestment from Fossil-Fuels has been anticipated since it was delivered to president Gertler on December 15 of this past year.

Neither spokespeople for the U of T administration, nor representatives of Toronto350 responded to immediate requests for comment.

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