Deleting our Aeroplan Cards

One action that Human Studio has taken is to move completely away from travel rewards cards. In our view, we need to build a culture where air travel costs reflect the dramatic GHG cost to our planet of flying. I don’t personally support the #flightshame strategy, but I also don’t support the casual approach to flying that characterizes much of the professional community that I hang out in. I feel immensely privileged to have travelled widely in my life. I am not suggesting we should never fly – my working life, for example, would make that very difficult. But – in our office we want to think of flying as a privilege, not a casual indulgence.

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Just think for a minute on what this image shows. Clearly massive profit is built in to the pricing of bottled water, but for decades gasoline has been priced lower than bottled water per litre. This represents the significant subsidy behind the exploration, extraction, refinement and shipping of a considerably more rare resource ~ oil ~ whereas water can simply be drawn from a well. The IMF estimates the Social Cost of Carbon (SCS) at $400/ton. This translates to $1.08 in damages for every litre of gasoline sold. The Carbon Tax in Canada is only 4 cents per litre. The Carbon Tax in Sweden is over 3x that, but it is still only 14 cents per litre equivalent. 

Barrie, ON

Step One: Education

After listening to the ‘The Biggest Story in The World‘ – a Guardian series on the climate crisis that chronicles their own divestment from fossil-based investments as promoted by Bill McKibben, I set out to see if I could divest my own small practice.  Better yet, what if I could encourage my colleagues, our regulator (the OAA), our insurance company ( ProDemnity ~ Spoiler: It turns out they already had before I got a chance to ask!) and my own bank to consider divesting along with me?  I immediately discovered a number of architects across Canada are thinking the same way and so we have collaborated to create this website. I was then informed that our insurance company has recently completed a divestment exercise (we’ll write about this elsewhere), as have many senior staff and other OAA-licensed architects. It seems that since the education of an architect includes the study of physics, materials science and thermodynamics, our understanding of climate science and the related effects to the hydrological cycle and extreme weather have a direct relationship to both energy infrastructure and building resilience.  This may explain why architects are some of the first professionals to call for direct action not only in how we design buildings and the type and quantity of energy they use, but also in how we run our businesses.  In a way, architects bridge the worlds of science and business by influencing development patterns (Transportation, Land-Use Planning, Development Density), infrastructure (Energy & Water), material selections (Resource Economy & Technology) and policy (Zoning & Building Codes).

 Now as I understand it, the first part of any action is education, both to solidify one’s stance with the facts, but also to become more comfortable in the knowledge of an issue in order to better explain it to others.  The list of resources on this website was generated by my colleagues and I in the process of our collective self-education and as such they represent the bread-crumb trail we have left in our collective path of research. We’ve even numbered them in rank of importance.

Canada’s private banks influence the way we structure energy in Canada from head to tail, or well to tailpipe. But despite global commitments to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis, fossil fuel expansion continues to be subsidized, underwritten, financed and insured by Canada’s big 5 banks to the tune of $464 billion dollars in the past 3 years alone – or $464 thousand-million dollars – or $464,000,000,000.0002. This has a knock-on effect on the slow uptake of energy efficient architecture in Canada. Can you imagine the clean energy and green architecture revolution that could be funded with that kind of investment? And this is only in Canada!

The birth of solar and energy efficient architecture took place in the 1970’s, but after the oil shocks ended (1979), the solar panels that President Jimmy Carter installed on the roof of the White House were immediately removed by President Ronald Reagan. Big Oil redoubled their efforts to glut the market into a kind of amnesia. The burgeoning Green Architecture revolution  in North America has been in a kind of purgatory ever since. Even though design tools and techniques have improved significantly from those early explorations, the sheer enthusiasm, scale, economics and interest in ecological design never returned, suppressed for decades by artificially cheap fossil energy. The solutions to the climate crisis have always been at hand, but have been forced into dormancy by energy pricing and policy. But the world is changing fast, and if Canada doesn’t soon wake up, our economy may be left behind, as is has been in Alberta. 

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Friends,

Today, Vancouver City Councillors submitted a motion instructing staff to assess climate risk in City investments and provide options for divesting from fossil fuels. The motion cites accelerating global warming with the need to leave fossil fuel reserves in the ground creating an increasing risk of “stranded assets”. Councillor Adriane Carr’s motion was developed in consultation with staff, Councillors Christine Boyle and Jean Swanson, and 350Vancouver. The work coming out of this motion will have implications far beyond the City and we want to see it pass at next week’s vote.

This motion provides instructions relating to:

  • Options and timelines for full City divestment from fossil fuels; engagement with the Municipal Finance Authority (MFA) to create a fossil free fund;
  • Revisiting outdated research on divestment by the Union of BC Municipalities;
  • Ways for the City to implement the guidelines of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
  • Support  for local businesses and other private institutions to understand and apply TCFD decision-making in their work.
  • Requesting a risk assessment of the Municipal Pension Plan’s investments based on carbon exposure.
  • Requesting the Province develop a model for crown corporations and provincial agencies to include disclosures guided by TCFD.
  • Have the Mayor sign on behalf of the City Global Green New Deal pledge  signed by the other C40 mayors. That pledge includes an “urgent, fundamental and irreversible transfer of global resources away from fossil fuels and into action that averts the climate emergency.”

Read the full motion here.

While not an instruction to divest at this time, the motion sets the groundwork and creates tools for the shifting of publicly held assets across BC away from increasingly risky investments in fossil fuels. 350Vancouver sees the climate crisis as first and foremost a justice issue but we recognize that in this moment an approach based on financial considerations can gets us to the same result.

We will keep pushing until we get full divestment from the City. We have been given to understand that this could happen in the Spring of 2020.

This is a significant moment for our divestment campaign at 350Vancouver.

To make sure this motion passes next Wednesday, we need your help.

Can you take five minutes to write to City Council asking Councillors to vote in favour of this motion?

Use this form to email City Council, urging them to pass Motion B4. You can use the following points in helping to write your email:

 

  • The City of Vancouver has a fiduciary duty to evaluate the risk posed by fossil fuel assets contained in its investment portfolio, and Motion B4 represents a critical step in determining the scope of that risk.
  • A re-evaluation of the City’s investment strategy presents a key opportunity to strengthen investments for long-term success. Recent analysis has shown how various pension funds and institutions have lost out on significant growth that could have been achieved by implementing managed divestment plans.
  • Already, over $11 trillion dollars have been committed to divested funds worldwide.
  • Given Vancouver’s location as a coastal city that stands to be impacted by the climate crisis, an examination of the city’s investments in fossil fuels is warranted from a public safety and climate mitigation perspective.

You can also thank Council for their efforts to date in making climate action a priority, or include any personal reasons why divestment is important to you!

Want to get more involved in our divestment campaign? Come to our next monthly meeting on Thursday, Devember 5th at 6:30pm at the HiVE, 128 West Hastings St.

Onwards!

Andrew Larigakis

350Vancouver

For more information please visit: https://350vancouver.org/divest/