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U of T committee recommends going ahead with targeted fossil fuel divestment

TORONTO — An advisory committee at the University of Toronto has recommended a targeted divestment of some fossil fuel companies.

Reporting Wednesday to university president Meric Gertler, the committee said that because some companies engage in "egregious behaviour and contribute inordinately to social injury" the university should withdraw investments in them.

However, the committee acknowledged that companies in the fossil fuel industry also offer society indispensable benefits, so a blanket divestment is not recommended.

The committee said the university should determine which fossil fuel companies "blatantly disregard" a target of a 1.5-degree climate change threshold and divest immediately from those companies.

While not defining exactly which companies would fall into that category, the report singled out companies that deliberately distort the climate change science, firms that depend on coal for more than 10 per cent of their revenue, and companies that get more than 10 per cent of their revenue from non-conventional or aggressive extraction.

The committee specifically mentioned open-pit oilsands mining, Arctic extraction, and thermal coal mining as forms non-conventional or aggressive extraction and named ExxonMobil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., and several U.S. companies as clear examples of companies blatantly disregarding climate targets.

The 10-member committee was responding to a petition by climate activist group Toronto350, part of the larger organization, calling for the university to divest from direct investments in fossil fuel companies.

The University of Toronto Asset Management Corp. had $7.4 billion under management at the end of 2014.

The Canadian Press

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