McGill University’s investments in fossil fuels make up a relatively small portion of the endowment fund, but the global impact of those companies the University invests in is extraordinary. The December 2011 report on the Publicly Traded Equity Holdings of the University is the most recent data available, and all discussion of the composition of McGill’s investments comes from that list.
To identify specific corporations we used two lists. The first, from the Rainforest Action Network, lists companies involved in the Canadian tar sands; the second, from the Carbon Tracker Initiative, has a list of the top 100 companies with the largest estimated carbon reserves in coal, and a list of the top 100 companies with reserves in oil and gas.
McGill invests in 645 publicly traded corporations. 14 are involved in the tar sands, while 35 number among the worlds largest fossil fuel corporations. In total, these two lists identify 37 unique companies that McGill profits from, 5.7% of the University’s unique holdings. The number of shares in each is not publicly available at this time, although Access to Information requests filed under the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies AND the protection of personal information will hopefully provide further insight to members of the McGill community.
It should be made clear that this is an incomplete list of the fossil fuel companies that McGill invests in. Only the largest and dirtiest fossil fuel companies are represented on these lists, and the school’s endowment fund includes other smaller corporations.
Of the 35 companies identified by the CTI, many are cross-listed on all three lists, meaning they have some of the largest reserves of carbon in coal, and in oil and gas, and they invest in the dirtiest form of oil production on the planet. The CTI also expressed its concern that Canadian accounting practices artificially lower the size of unconventional oil reserve size estimation, since “they are only reported under Canadian rules once production is believed to be ‘imminent’” (Initiative 12). Thus it is likely that the size of the actual reserves of carbon owned by the 12 firms involved in the tar sands for which an estimation of reserve size is available is significantly larger than expressed.
All told these 35 companies have at least 205.455 Gigatonnes of CO2 locked away beneath the earth. Those known reserves comprise about 7% of the globe’s known carbon reserves but comprise over 36% of our remaining carbon budget for the next 38 years. The Carbon Tracker Initiative estimates that only 886 Gigatonnes of CO2 can be emitted from 2000-2050 if humanity hopes to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius. With 321 Gigatonnes already burned, only 565 Gigatonnes remain in our global carbon budget. Thus 80% of the world’s 2795 Gigatonne fossil fuel reserves must remain underground.
None of these fossil fuel companies has pledged to keep 80% of their reserves unburned, nor will they as long as it is profitable for them.
The question then is what to do about this problem. The responsible answer is divestment.
|Companies||Coal (GtC02)||Oil (Gtc02)||Gas (GtC02)||Total (GtC02)|
|Baytex Energy Corp *||0.3||0.3|
|Bonavista Energy Corp||0.18||0.03||0.21|
|Canadian Natural Resources *||4.23||0.14||4.37|
|Cenovus Energy Inc *||1.4||0.006||1.406|
|Crescent Point Energy Corp.||0.47||0||0.47|
|EnCana Corp. *||0.24||0.47||0.71|
|Exxon Mobil *||38.14||2.89||41.03|
|GDF Suez S.A.||0.17||0.05||0.22|
|Oil Search LTD||0.91||0.91|
|Repsol YPF S.A.||2.75||0.29||3.04|
|Royal Dutch Shell *||14.11||2.09||16.2|
|Statoil ASA *||2.23||0.25||2.48|
|Suncor Energy *||3.74||0.007||3.747|
|Talisman Energy Inc.||1.47||0.19||1.66|
* Also invests in the tar sands; due to Canadian accounting practices, the estimated carbon reserves for companies that exploit the tar sands are likely higher than the publicly available data.
An estimate of the size of carbon reserves is available for each company in bold.
Identifying the companies that lobby for or will participate in the Plan Nord is difficult, as most are not public with their interest. The companies listed below are members of Quebec professional associations that are lobbying for the plan, including the AEMQ, the ACRGTQ, the Association des Ingenieurs-conseils du Quebec, the AQME, and the AQPER.
*Its Canadian subsidiary is involved in the Plan Nord.