Universities take action on anti-fossil fuel

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Universities take action on anti-fossil fuel

By Tim Cutler, Eliza Horton and Lucy Croker


© People & Planet UEA

The climate is changing. We cannot find an answer to the problem but we can stop making the problem worse. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that to stay below the ‘safe’ limit of a two-degree-Celsius rise in global warming by the end of this century, 80 per cent of fossil fuel must stay in the ground.

If we want a chance to avoid the worst of climate change, we cannot burn more than a fifth of the world’s coal, gas and oil. The fossil-fuel industry does not listen and digs up and burns coal, oil and gas with the worst effects on our future. But people around the world are worried about our planet. They are taking action asking for divestment from fossil fuels, asking institutions to take our money out of fossil fuels.

The fossil-fuel industry has a lot of power. It can stop climate action. And many institutions around the world give the industry money.

Governments, churches, banks. universities, and a lot of people invest in fossil fuels. The effects of climate change are beginning to harm all of the world and things will be worse. So investing money in fossil-fuel is a terrible idea.

The divestment movement is asking institutions to take their money from the fossil-fuel industry. This which will not stop the industry, but it will reduce its power and make it clear fossil fuels are bad.

The movement is following other successful divestment campaigns, such as the anti-apartheid movement and the campaign against the tobacco industry. Students were very involved in these two campaigns and they talked to their own universities. We want to repeat their success today.

There was success after the People’s Climate March in September. The Rockefeller Institute took $50 billion from the fossil-fuel industry and invested the money in clean energy. Hours later, Google and many other companies left connection with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an important oil-funded group which campaigns against climate action. In May, Stanford University agreed to divest $18.7 billion from coal companies after students talked to the university. In October, Glasgow University was the first university in Europe to go ‘Fossil Free’ when it agreed to take all of its investments from fossil-fuel, about $27 million in the next five years. The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) could be next. Oxford University is the university with most investments in oil and gas in Britain. It has not yet agreed to divest, Oxford City Council divested from fossil fuels after demands from students and professors at the university.

People & Planet began the Fossil Free campaign in September 2013, at the University of East Anglia (UEA), which has over $200,000 invested in fossil-fuel companies such as Shell and Rio Tinto. The campaign is popular with the staff and students of UEA; a petition to the vice-chancellor got over 1,000 signatures. The students used many different ideas in the campaign: stopping the university’s communication systems, the telephones, the emails, and social media, oil spills, banners, talks, and discussions with guest speakers such as anti-coal activists from Colombia and Indonesia. The university said no to divestment. UEA is one of the best British universities researching climate change. So it is strange that it will not divest.

The global Fossil Free campaign was started by 350.org in 2012, and there are campaigns all over the world. In Britain, the divestment campaign is run by People & Planet, student activists who campaign for environmental and social justice. Fossil Free campaigns in Britain at 46 universities, including Edinburgh, Swansea, Birmingham, University College London and King’s College London.'



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