Fossil fuel divestment advocates stepped up pressure Tuesday on the University of Toronto to drop its direct holdings in coal, oil, and natural gas companies.

The group, Toronto 350.org, released a letter signed by more than 200 University of Toronto faculty members urging their institution to divest.

“To prevent widespread ecological and ice-sheet collapse, we must limit global warming to two degrees Celsius,” the letter stated.

The release of the letter coincided with a mail-in post card campaign from students, just days before a campus protest march on Oct. 29 together with speeches timed to coincide with a meeting of the university’s governing council.

Althea Blackburn-Evans, director of media relations for the University of Toronto, said the work of the Presidential Advisement Committee on the Divestment of Fossil Fuels is still underway and that the committee will make recommendations later this year.

"The president will carefully consider those recommendations and he’ll make the final decision,” Blackburn-Evans said.

But it’s concern over which way this decision might go that sparked the latest round of campus protests.

University of Toronto could re-invest in green funds or direct holdings of renewable energy

Lilia Asher, a second-year student in environmental studies and a student organizer with Toronto 350.org, said they are hoping that the university will make a positive recommendation.

“But we can’t be sure at this point. That’s why it’s important to keep putting pressure on the administration and show them this is something that we care about.”

Toronto 350.org estimates the school has direct holdings in about 200 listed companies, adding up to roughly $30 million through the university’s endowment and pension funds.

In place of the fossil fuel funds, Toronto 350.org proposes that the university invest in green funds, selectively in direct holdings of renewable energy, or companies supporting decarbonisation, among other alternatives.

Fossil fuel divestment campaigns underway at more than 300 North American schools

“If a university seeks to educate extraordinary youth so they achieve the brightest possible future, what does it mean for that university to simultaneously invest in the destruction of that future?” the letter the scholars signed ask rhetorically.

Currently, fossil fuel divestment campaigns are active at more than 300 schools across North America and a number within Europe as well. To date, 26 universities and colleges have pledged to divest. They include San Francisco State University Foundation, Hampshire College and Green Mountain College.

In total, 181 institutions committed to fossil fuel divestment in 2014, including cities, churches, universities and private foundations. The total amount divested is approximately $50 billion.

The fossil fuel divestment movement began in 2012, aiming to replicate student campaigns advocating divestment from Apartheid South Africa as a tool to pressure politicians.

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