David Suzuki, a world-renowned environmentalist, wrote a personal letter to U of T’s president, Meric Gertler, requesting a fossil fuel divestment. The divestment campaign endorsed, by 350.org, has gained the approval of many prominent members of the community. Among the 1,000 signers, a former mayor of Toronto, David Miller, has acknowledged the importance of the campaign.

Led by local environmentalist group Toronto350.org, which has been building support for divestment of fossil fuels for the past year, the divestment campaign involves U of T staff, alumni, and students calling on the university to make an immediate statement of intent to divest from fossil fuel companies for the next five years and to stop investing funds into the fossil fuel industry. The group claims that U of T is heavily invested in fossil fuel companies.

The divestment campaign is calling on U of T’s administration to declare its interest in divesting stock holdings in nearly 200 fossil fuel companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, one of the leading oil and gas companies based in the U.K.

In his letter, Suzuki insists that to keep the agreement made by the federal government during the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference to allow no more than a two-degree rise in temperature, “We can only burn a small fraction of our known reserves and leave the rest in the ground.”  Suzuki also asks Gertler to consider the “moral and ethical issues” because “the issue of responsibility to future generations overrides all others”.

The divestment movement was first launched in Swathmore College in United States to fight against mountaintop coal removal. Since then, the movement has gained power and aims to relocate the billions of dollars invested in fossil fuel to renewable energy. “Divestment presents an opportunity to build movement power that lives longer than a single campaign, the kind of power we will need to push for legislative changes and to stop fossil fuel expansion projects in their tracks,” said Cameron Fenton, the national director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition.