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Catholic teachers pushing for faster fossil fuel divestment

  • November 3, 2021

After 10 years of pushing Canada’s second biggest pension plan to get serious about climate change, Ontario’s unionized Catholic teachers feel like they’re making progress, but they’re still not satisfied.

“We would like to see divestment at a quicker pace,” said Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association president Barb Dobrowolski.

In January, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan committed to net zero on its investments that contribute to climate change by 2050. In September, with this month’s COP26 looming on the horizon, the $173.74 billion (U.S.) fund upped the ante with a commitment to reduce its portfolio’s carbon emissions intensity by 45 per cent by 2025 and two-thirds by 2030 compared to a 2019 baseline.

“Given the scale and complexity of our investment portfolio, we believe this is an ambitious plan that will meaningfully lower emissions and contribute to the plan’s long-term sustainability,” Teachers president and CEO Jo Taylor said in a release.

While OECTA has a seat on the Teachers’ board of governors along with other teachers’ unions, it can’t force a change in investment policy on its own.

Dobrowolski recognizes that divestment isn’t easy for a fund as big as Teachers. But the union also recognizes that time is short.

“OECTA will continue in its push for a greener portfolio and a more expedited divestment plan,” Dobrowolski said. “And certainly our advocacy is inspired by Laudato Si’.”

The Laudato Si’ Movement Canada has a plan to make an investor toolkit available this year to make divestment easier for individuals and smaller funds.

The strategy goes beyond holding money back from carbon-spewing fossil fuel companies, said Laudato Si’ Movement co-ordinator Agnes Richard. The Eco-Investment Accelerator toolkit will also help investors identify investments that can boost the transition to greener, cleaner energy. “There is so much more to invest in than fossil fuels and banks if we really want to put our money where our faith is,” Richard said.

This year 72 faith institutions worldwide announced plans to divest from fossil fuels, including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland along with all the Catholic dioceses in Scotland.

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