PRESS RELEASE – Global Divestment Day

For immediate release – 14/02/15

Oxford students celebrate Global Divestment Day by ‘crashing the wedding’ of the University and Big Oil

Oxford, UK – A group of Oxford students today celebrated Global Divestment Day by ‘crashing the wedding’ of Oxford University and the Fossil Fuel Industry in a creative action in Radcliffe Square.[1] In this Valentine’s Day themed action, actors representing the University and Big Oil were prevented from ‘marrying’ by protesters calling instead for divestment and an end to the partnership. On Global Divestment Day thousands of people across 5 continents will stand up to the fossil fuel industry and take action for climate justice.[2] This action in Oxford is a small part of a wide and growing movement for global institutions to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry.

This action comes just weeks before the University’s General Purposes Committee meet to decide whether or not to recommend fossil fuel divestment. Students at Oxford have been lobbying the University for over a year to divest from fossil fuel companies, arguing that they are supporting an industry that undermines our future. Oxford University and its colleges, with investments of £3.8 billion, have the largest endowment wealth of any UK higher education institution.

The Oxford University Fossil Free campaign have detailed recommendations including a call to cut all direct investments in coal and tar sands oil and also to establish clear targets to move all investments away from carbon-intensive assets and into low-carbon alternatives, including renewable energy [3]. This campaign has gained the support of over 100 academics, nearly 300 alumni and over 2200 others, as well as 27 college common rooms and the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) [4].

Last week new research was released by University College London (UCL) which states that over 80% of coal, 50% of gas and 30% of oil reserves are “unburnable” under the goal to limit global warming to no more than 2C [5]. However UCL has refused to divest its own money from the fossil fuel industry, which include Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, BP PLC, and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, despite a growing student campaign which has gathered over 1300 signatures from students, staff and alumni [6].

Since October 2013, the People & Planet network have launched nearly 60 Fossil Free campaigns across UK campuses and engaged over 25,000 students. They’re calling on UK universities to divest their £5.2bn worth of investments in the top 200 coal, oil and gas companies, as well as ditch their research and career ties [7].  In summer 2014, the University of London SOAS became the first UK university to take action; freezing new investments in the fossil fuel industry. SOAS is expected to make a decision on divestment in February. In October 2014, Glasgow University became the first university in the UK to divest its £129 million endowment from fossil fuels.

Around 200 institutions globally, with a combined asset size of over $50 billion, have committed to divest, including the Rockerfeller Brothers Foundation, the British Medical Association, Stanford University and the World Council of Churches [6]. A total of 21 universities have divested internationally. In the last week alone, the University of Bedfordshire, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and Goddard College in Vermont USA have all pledged to divest.

Decisions are also imminent from a hand-full of other institutions including the University of Edinburgh, who conducted a university-wide student and staff consultation in which respondents overwhelmingly supported divestment.

QUOTES:

“The campaign for Oxford University to divest has reached a crucial stage – as has the international climate movement. In the run-up to COP21, it’s more important than ever for the University to take a stand against fossil fuels. On Global Divestment Day, we will raise our voices across the world and make ourselves heard!” – Rivka Micklethwaite, Co-Chair OUSU Environment and Ethics Campaign

“By investing in fossil fuel companies, the university is supporting an industry that is systematically making our planet less habitable. Today we are appealing to the university to take a positive step in our response to anthropogenic climate change and break up with fossil fuels.” – Sam Cornish, (Earth Sciences undergraduate)

CONTACT

Ellen Gibson (OUSU E&E Co-chair) on ellen.gibson@st-hildas.ox.ac.uk for photos and quotes.

NOTES TO EDITOR

  1. Event page: www.facebook.com/events/331599990365916/
  2. http://gofossilfree.org/uk/global-divestment-day/
  3. Report available here: https://oxfordunifossilfree.wordpress.com/about/our-report-averting-a-climate-crisis/.
  4. The list of University of Oxford supporters, as well as information about the student campaign can be found here: https://oxfordunifossilfree.wordpress.com/our-supporters-2/
  5. For more information on UCL’s research http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30709211
  6. https://www.facebook.com/FossilFreeUCL
  7. UK universities currently invest £5.2bn in the fossil fuel industry. More information can be found in the Knowledge and Power report: http://peopleandplanet.org/dl/fossil-free/knowledge-power-report.pdf
  8. For a full list of divestment commitments, see: http://gofossilfree.org/commitments/

For more information on Go Green Week see http://peopleandplanet.org/gogreenweek

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