In the wake of the Paradise Papers leaks, sign our petition demanding that Oxford University commit to transparency and ethical investing: http://bit.ly/paradisepetition.
In the wake of the Paradise Papers leaks, sign our petition demanding that Oxford University commit to transparency and ethical investing: http://bit.ly/paradisepetition.
Yesterday, The Guardian broke a story from leaked Paradise Papers revealing that Oxford University and sixteen Oxford colleges are secretly invested in offshore, untaxed funds that finance projects from fossil fuel exploration technology to rent-to-buy retail schemes that prey on the U.K.’s lowest-earning people. The Oxford University Climate Justice Campaign condemns these investments and the larger Oxbridge project to generate financial growth at the expense of human communities near and far.
Shame on Oxford for its investment in deep-sea oil exploration and infrastructure, as it produces cutting-edge research on the climate crisis and limits of burnable carbon. Shame on Oxford for evading taxes in pursuit of maximum profit, as it claims to train the leaders of tomorrow in ethics, governance, and democratic principles and espouses a commitment to social mobility. Shame on Oxford for lying to its students, faculty, and the world, as the Vice Chancellor proclaims her support for the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5ºC and promises to reach that goal through “stewardship” of the University’s massive endowment. This is only more appalling in the context of increasing tuition fees and the scrapping of crucial maintenance grants, which have individualised the costs of higher education and shut out students from lower-income backgrounds.
Evidently, the University is concerned with positioning itself as a leader in sustainability, but not with actively following through on its pledges and addressing the roots of the climate crisis. In 2015, Oxford agreed to a watered-down, partial divestment of coal and tar sands which moved £0. Oxford manages its £5 billion endowment like a corporation, seeking to maximize returns regardless of the social and environmental costs. The Paradise Papers revelation is shocking and infuriating, but it is in line—unfortunately—with the current Oxford administration’s practices of denial and obfuscation and the University’s colonial, exploitative history.
The Papers unveil a complex string of investments that begin here at Oxford—most significantly, flowing from university workers’ pension funds (Universities Superannuation Scheme)—and end in fossil fuel extractive projects from the Texas Gulf Coast to Nigeria to Malaysia. Along the way, millions of Oxford’s pounds were invested in Royal Dutch Shell by way of Coller International, a private equity firm based in the Channel island of Guernsey and the recipient of £2.6m from the University and its colleges. Oxford’s funds helped Royal Dutch Shell develop projects like the Shell Technology Ventures Fund, which invests in fossil fuel “production and exploration technologies” that probe former colonies like Nigeria and Malaysia for their natural resources.
The ultimate result is untold quantities of untaxed dividends for Oxford, and a continuation of its legacy of exploring the planet with the intention of exploiting. Our expectation of the educational institution that claims to be the greatest in the world is simple: act in the interest of the planet and the people. Let’s envision a University that invests the pension funds of faculty and staff and its endowment in cooperatively-owned renewable energy (these projects exist around Oxford!) and other companies that are building a sustainable future for communities around the globe.
The Oxford Climate Justice Campaign calls for immediate change. We demand a university that pays its taxes. We demand divestment from all secret, offshore funds and transparency about where our endowment is invested. We demand full fossil fuel divestment. We demand that students be included in these investment conversations—and that we are listened to.
At the time of posting, over 80 divestment organisations have signed this letter to Pope Francis! It calls on him to support the divestment movement and to Divest the Vatican, in light of his groundbreaking encyclical on the environment.
Most Holy Father,
We write to you as young people, as constituents of Jesuit institutions, other Catholic, Christian, and religious institutions, and non-religious institutions as people of goodwill, on behalf of an entire generation. We are standing on the precipice of climate catastrophe. Since the release of your encyclical “Laudato Si” in June, we have been inspired by your call for climate justice and the awakening of the Catholic and global community to the systemic causes of the climate crisis.
We have resonated with your criticism of the lack of response from our politicians and leaders in addressing climate change. St. Ignatius of Loyola urged us to see God in all things. Regrettably, many of our leaders are overlooking this important lesson. It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The message that we are getting out to the world through our fossil fuel divestment work echoes your observation that “The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.” We wholeheartedly agree with your analysis, Holy Father, and we see divestment as a means to strip fossil fuel special interests of their political power, which thus far has helped in blocking meaningful climate legislation to come to fruition. As you have taught, highly polluting fossil fuels must be replaced without delay, and that cannot happen while these interests have control of our political processes.
Additionally, fossil fuel divestment proclaims, as you did at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, that “there is an invisible thread joining every one of [the many forms of exclusion and injustice].” You asked: “Can we recognize it? These are not isolated issues. I wonder whether we can see that these destructive realities are part of a system which has become global. Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?”
We answer yes. All around us, we see the frightening consequences of an extractive capitalist economy, colonialism, systemic racism, and other forms of injustice. Divestment as a tactic is pivotal to the climate justice movement in that it forces us to think of issues with intersectionality on a global scale. One can not truly address the climate crisis and environmental injustice issues without dismantling the larger system which allows these things to continue. By calling on our institutions to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies, and reinvest those funds into renewable technology and into those communities which have been marginalized, we force dialogue on climate change in terms of a global system urgently in need of an overhaul.
Despite the colossal challenges that face our young generation, we have hope in the future and are fighting to secure a world for ourselves in which a just and stable future is possible. We have been inspired and invigorated by your witness to the Gospel, and your calls for real, structural change. We highly anticipate your September visit to the United States and the furthering of the conversation surrounding the changes that we urgently need. During your visit, we ask that you call on our universities, along with other institutions, to divest from fossil fuels. Some of America’s largest Catholic organizations still have millions of dollars invested in heavily polluting fossil fuel companies. Within a few years, this remarkably fast-growing movement has reached some incredible milestones, but unfortunately many of our own educational institutions, which cite Christian values, are ignoring your call for climate justice by refusing to divest. Additionally, we ask that you continue efforts to divest your own “campus,” as The Vatican has an equal responsibility as our universities and institutions to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry. We wholeheartedly believe in the Catholic values of stewardship for the Earth and for oppressed people, and we are offering our institutions the chance to live out these values as well. We are doing all that we can, but we need your help so that together we can take part in the “globalization of hope.”
We thank you again for your love and your leadership, Holy Father.
As young people for a just world,
(Click here to sign on behalf of your group)
Climate Justice at Boston College
Boston College Alumni for Divestment
Fossil Free LMU, Loyola Marymount University
Tufts Climate Action, Tufts University
Saint Mary’s College Sustainability Committee
Swarthmore Mountain Justice
Bowdoin Climate Action
Maine Students for Climate Justice
University of New Hampshire’s Student Environmental Action Coalition
Divest Central Michigan University
Student Environmental Alliance at Central Michigan University
Take Back the Tap at Central Michigan University
Divest Chico State
Fossil Free Caltech (Teachers for a Sustainable Future)
Fossil Free UCLA at University of California, Los Angeles
Fossil Free University of Tasmania, Australia
Fossil Free Monash University, Australia
Fossil Free RMIT, Melbourne, Australia
Boston University Students for a Just and Stable Future
Fossil Free San Francisco State University
Fossil Free MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
DivestNOW! Cornell, Cornell University
Fossil Free NAU, Northern Arizona University
Fossil Free Lesley, Lesley University
Divest Carleton, Carleton College
Southwest Divestment Network, Divestment Student Network
DivestNU, Northeastern University
Fossil Free AppState, Appalachian State University
Fossil Free Reed College Alumni
People and Planet, Fossil Free UK, United Kingdom
Go Fossil Free Washington State University
Colorado College Student Divestment Committee
Go Fossil Free Ball State
Divest Barnard from Fossil Fuels
Divest Dartmouth, Dartmouth College
Fossil Free Lakehead, Lakehead University
Divest University of Washington
Fossil Free ND, University of Notre Dame
Fossil Free Warwick University, UK
Pacific University: Go Fossil Free
Fossil Free Cal, UC Berkeley
Fossil Free UC, University of California
DivestPBurgh, State University of New York at Plattsburgh
Go Fossil Free SBCC, Santa Barbara City College, California
Divest DU, University of Denver, Colorado
Green Jays at Creighton University
Fossil Free NU, Northwestern University
Columbia Divest for Climate Justice, Columbia University
Sierra Student Coalition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fossil Free UCSC, University of California Santa Cruz
Divest Stonehill, Stonehill College
Stonehill College, Students for Environmental Action
New Progressive Alliance
University of Southern Maine: Go Fossil Free!
Fossil Free Yale
Divest VicSuper, Melbourne, Australia
Divest JC, Juniata College
Go Fossil Free, Penn State
Fossil Free University of Queensland
Divest James Cook University
Divest WNEU, Western New England University
Oxford University Fossil Free, UK
Brandeis Climate Justice
Hamilton Divests, Hamilton College
Fossil Free MU, University of Melbourne
Fossil Free WashU, Washington University in St. Louis
Fossil Free Griffith University
Fossil Free ANU, Australian National University
Climate Action 350-UW (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
350 Madison Climate Action Team
University of Iowa: Go Fossil Free
Oberlin Students for Divestment
Fossil Free Queensland University of Technology
Clarkson University Sustainable Synergy
Students United for Socioeconomic Justice, University of Texas at San Antonio
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Beyond Coal
Climate Action Society at the University of Virginia
Student Environmental Alliance at Loyola University Chicago
Divest JMU, James Madison University
In a statement just released by University Council, Oxford has committed not to invest in coal and tar sands fuel:
“Council encourages OUem (Oxford Endowment Management) to maintain its rigorous assessment of potential investments across a number of risk criteria, particularly social and environmental impacts, alongside other investment criteria. Council recognises that OUem’s Governance Policy is designed to avoid investment in sectors with the highest environmental and social risks, leading to its present situation of no direct holdings in coal and oil sands companies – one of the key points in the OUSU representation. Council has asked OUem to maintain this position and avoid any future direct investments in coal and oil sands.”
The full statement can be read here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/news-and-events/fossil-fuel-divestment
THE PRESS RELEASE ON THE DECISION CAN BE READ HERE: http://350.org/press-release/oxford-university-takes-a-moral-stand-on-coal-and-tar-sands/
Next year, Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor Andy Hamilton will be leaving to take up the post at NYU. They offered us a statement of solidarity in this crucial stage of negotion:
“NYU Divest stands in solidarity with the Oxford University Student Union in their efforts to see Oxford University divest from fossil fuels. We hope to see Andrew Hamilton, our future president at NYU, come out in support of divestment. We are completely committed to seeing NYU divest from fossil fuels, and if they do not do so before our current president leaves, we will be joining the ranks of countless other divestment campaigns, such as Harvard and Yale, in escalating in order to ensure our university makes the only morally and financially responsible choice. We would like to see Andrew Hamilton take a stance on the issue of climate change. If he leaves Oxford still opposed to divesting from an industry that threatens his students there, he will find strong pressure to divest from his new students in New York City. Climate change will not wait for politics or bureaucracy, and divestment is non-negotiable for us. We will support OUSU in every way we can and expect to see Mr. Hamilton make the right decision both in Oxford and at NYU.”
We’d also like to thank the OUSU Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality for their fantastic statement of solidarity with our campaign, recognising the nature of climate change as a social justice issue:
“CRAE stands in solidarity with Oxford University Fossil Free and demands that the University of Oxford divest from the fossil fuel industry and shift to positive, ethical investments. It is clear from overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is set to drastically alter our world in the coming years, and threaten the lives of billions of people. It is also clear that those who are likely to be most impacted by the harmful effects of climate change are those who are already marginalized and oppressed globally, including people of colour. While CRAE’s focus is on combatting institutional racism within Oxford we must also be attentive to the ways in which Oxford contributes to the oppression and destruction of communities of colour globally, and one primary way that occurs is through its continued tacit support of the fossil fuel industry. CRAE demands that the University of Oxford and Vice-Chancellor Andrew Hamilton recognizes the need for divestment and shows a commitment to combatting climate change by divesting fully from the fossil fuel industry.”
Tomorrow (Monday 18th May) Oxford is set to make a decision on divestment! This is our last chance to show our support and demonstrate the need for strong action on the climate crisis!
Tweet at Oxford to show your support!
Or write your own tweet using #DivestOxford!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Saturday 16th May
OXFORD, UK – Today, Oxford campaigners cordoned off the historic Sheldonian building in central Oxford and started to prospect for oil under the banner “WELCOME TO THE SHELL-DONIAN” to highlight the ongoing investments of the university into the fossil fuel industry. Donned in biohazard suits complete with a giant cardboard oil rig, the stunt highlighted the complicity of the university in fossil fuel extraction just days before the University Council meet to decide whether or not to recommend fossil fuel divestment (Monday 18th May). This has been done in solidarity with the students attending the speaker’s corner in Radcliffe Square, who are also acting to put pressure on the university to divest from fossil fuels.
Quote from student campaigner:
“We’re calling the university out in its hypocrisy; how can they tell others to act on climate change, but continue to profit from it themselves? Today we, the students of the University of Oxford, are showing that we won’t stand for it any longer”
Since the failure of the University to make a decision back in March, the case for divestment has been growing, with the Church of England divesting from Coal and Tar Sands along with 180 global institutions including the University of Glasgow, the University of Bedfordshire and the University of London SOAS.
The Univeristy of Oxford had in 2012 £3.8bn of endowments, making up 41% of the total wealth of UK universities, and following on from previous divestments on arms manufacturing, campaigners are asking the university: to evaluate the carbon risk across their portfolio; to move from highcarbon assets to lowcarbon alternatives; to cut direct investments in coal and tar sands oil; and to engage with policy makers, financial regulators and corporate management.
36 common rooms in Oxford have so far given their support to the campaign, as well as over 100 academics and almost 800 alumni (who have also pledged not to donate to the university if it does not divest. In addition, over 65 Oxford alumni have decided to give back their degrees if the university does not divest.
Quote from Sunniva Taylor, an alumna who will give back her degree if the university foes not divest:
“This is not just a question of integrity for me. I want to use the privilege having [an Oxford degree] gives me to try and shake things up; to use my power to draw attention to others’. The University of Oxford still has a lot influence – nationally and globally – and so the choices it makes about where it puts its money really do matter.”
Quote from Jeremy Leggett, solar energy entrepreneur and alumnus:
“I don’t think universities should be training young people to craft a viable civilisation with one hand and bankroll its sabotage with the other.”
NOTES TO EDITOR:
On May 18th Oxford University will decide on fossil fuel divestment.
They will decide whether to act on the pressing need to address climate change, whether they will display academic integrity, whether they support the futures of their student body and a stable planet.
After 2 years of campaigning and massive support, many Oxford alumni have decided that they cannot be associated with the University if it should reject divestment demands and continue to tar their degrees with dirty and risky investments.
The weekend after Oxford makes its decision, therefore, Oxford University Fossil Free is hosting a DEGREE HAND-BACK CEREMONY to demonstrate this vote of no confidence from the alumni body.
This event will take place outside University Offices in Wellington Square.
The Ceremony will take place at 1pm, we will then be hosting a celebration for supporters of the campaign until 3pm.
A degree hand-back ceremony, followed by a family-friendly garden party for all the supporters of the Oxford University Fossil Free campaign!
If Oxford divests and the degree hand-back is unnecessary, we will of course still celebrate as planned, probably with more refreshments.
IF YOU ARE AN ALUM AND WOULD LIKE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE HAND-BACK, CLICK THE LINK BELOW:
If you can make it to Oxford, your presence would mean a lot. The more people present to hand back their degrees, the more powerful the message of alumni support for divestment and climate action will be.
FOR ALL THE INFORMATION, SEE THE FACEBOOK EVENT: www.facebook.com/events/1571054153149617/
*You will not need to have your actual degree certificate with you, we can provide symbolic alternatives!*