Comment: City taking sensible steps to a sustainable future

Lawrie McFarlane’s recent piece (“City is moralizing with other people’s money,” July 26) misses the mark on a number of issues. While he is correct that the council’s decisions to pursue options to divest from fossil fuels is a clear call to action and is intended to combat global warming, he mistakenly assumes:

a) that Victoria’s fossil-fuel divestment will negatively impact oil and gas employees and Canada’s economy; and

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b) that there is something hypocritical about taking steps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels while we are still reliant on them.

While I am flattered to hear that McFarlane thinks we have persuaded the city to remove all fossil-fuel related investments overnight, this is not the case. A careful reading of the motion passed by the city shows that council is asking for reports about investments currently held in fossil fuel-related companies, and options for divesting those assets over the next five, 10 and 15 years.

The city is taking measured, sensible steps toward fossil-fuel divestment.

In addition, the City of Victoria has $111 million in investments. Even if that were all in fossil-fuel companies (which it is not), and we divested every penny, this is not an amount that could put gas-field workers or the Canadian economy in danger.

The larger divestment movement, on the other hand, with more than $50 billion committed, can put pressure on the oil and gas industry to stop their most unethical practices and start investing in alternatives.

Fossil-fuel divestment activists across Canada have also been advocating for a just transition for workers, as we reduce our fossil-fuel consumption and move to a low-carbon economy.

McFarlane is mistaken to think that moving money into socially responsible investments would hurt Canada’s economy. Globally, capital investment in renewable energy is larger than capital investment in fossil fuels, and Canada would be wise to start diversifying now.

Postponing this transition will actually hurt our economy, as it would mean more high-carbon energy and infrastructure projects that lock Canada into an outdated and no longer viable status quo.

Furthermore, the logic of the argument that says we should not take action on municipal divestment because we still rely on fossil fuels is flawed. It is not hypocritical to take the first steps toward something. We are not going to become fossil-free in one fell swoop, nor would it be responsible to do so.

I applaud Victoria city council for taking these courageous first steps toward creating a low-carbon economy.

 

Laurel Collins is an instructor in social-justice studies and sociology, and a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria.

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