Climate justice in the fossil fuel divestment movement: critical reflections on youth environmental organizing in Canada




Belliveau, Emilia

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The fossil fuel divestment movement is a directed-network campaign that strategically uses economic and ethical arguments to challenge the social license of the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel divestment campaigns have become an induction point for the youth climate movement in North America (Grady-Benson & Sarathy, 2015; Rowe et. al., 2016). The analytical and operational approaches to social change employed by the fossil fuel divestment movement are having a ripple effect on the political orientation of a new generation of activists and environmental leaders. This thesis explores concepts and practices of climate justice in the fossil fuel divestment movement on Canadian university campuses, as a flashpoint in the shifting terrain of environmentalism. The research uses qualitative methods to analyze three case study campaigns, as well as supplemental interviews from additional campaign members and national coordinating organizations like and the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. This project contributes to a growing body of literature concerned with applied political theory (Rowe et. al., 2016; Schifeling & Hoffman, 2017) and the social impacts of fossil fuel divestment (Bratman et al, 2016; Grady-Benson & Sarathy, 2015; Mangat et al., 2018), providing new insight into the potential of divestment organizing to disrupt dominant narratives of mainstream environmentalism. Fossil fuel divestment organizers are articulating climate justice analysis that calls for transformative system change, including critiques of neoliberal capitalism that are predominantly grounded in climate justice approaches.



climate justice, fossil fuel divestment, divestment, environmentalism, social movement, climate change, anti-capitalism