SFU commits to full divestment from fossil fuels by 2025

The announcement came after eight years of student activism

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SFU mural
PHOTO: Nancy La / The Peak

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer

On November 1, 2021, SFU announced their full divestment from fossil fuels by 2025. Divestment has been a topic of controversy on campus and has led to student protests in the form of a mural, rallies, and a planned hunger strike.   

In a statement from the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS), SFU350 co-president Abigail Herd stated, “We are thrilled to see SFU committing to full divestment from fossil fuels by 2025. This announcement would not have occurred without the tireless organizing of activists, including current and past SFU350 members who organized for 8 years, and student hunger strikers, and many organizations at SFU and beyond.”

SFU’s initial announcement did not mention student activists’ contributions. SFU350, hunger strike organizers, and student responses on Twitter all expressed disappointment at the lack of acknowledgements.

“Great win but what @drjoyjohnson failed to mention is the labour @sfu350 put into advocating for a full divestment. Upsetting to see since we’ve had conversations about the importance of crediting student labour with SFU Admin previously — stop taking wins with no credit,” tweeted Marie Hadded, SFSS vice-president equity and sustainability. “Don’t forget how @SFU tried to weaponize student conduct proceedings that were dropped because of community outrage.”

SFU’s statement has been revised to include grateful accreditations to the Board of Governors (BoG), its investment committees, SFU350 and other groups and students “who continue to raise awareness about the importance of the impact that we can make.” 

The full divestment announcement was made on the day independent activists including Zain Haq and math department professor Nilima Nigam planned to begin their hunger strike. They presented an ultimatum to SFU in October stating if SFU doesn’t meet their demands, which included full divestment, students will hold an overnight hunger strike in the AQ.

According to their media statement, the hunger strikers have decided to temporarily stand down after having their top demand met. They anticipate campaigning again for their other two demands regarding SFU’s opposition to the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) and the fire safety risk of its tank farm. 

“Although this is a great victory, the university still has to strongly address the threat of the Trans Mountain pipeline on the mountain, which puts the students and staff at lethal risk and threatens the planet,” noted Tim Takaro, health science professor and anti-TMX activist.

SFU350 sent out a statement attributing many involved groups over the past eight years and said the hunger strike “pushed this win over the finish line.” 

SFU350 has presented at the BoG meeting multiple times, most recently in October 2021, and has advocated for carbon footprint reduction, the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment signature, and divestment from fossil fuels.

SFSS’ statement outlined their future collaboration with SFU350. “​​The SFSS looks forward to continuing to work with SFU350 and climate justice organizers to push SFU to implement the framework outlined in the Climate Declaration letter’s 7 demands, including decarbonize, divest, raise awareness and amplify, climate hub, climate justice, education, and next steps.” 

A comprehensive list of groups involved can be found in the media statements by SFSS and SFU350.

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