Students call for divestment in fossil fuel firms

A group of students has delivered a petition to Universities UK calling for the sector to stop investing in fossil fuels.

June 17, 2014

The campaigners, from the People & Planet group, collected 15,000 signatures asking for institutions to sever ties with the industry in research and the recruitment of academics.

As part of the protest, the students staged an auction where they acted as vice-chancellors buying shares in fossil fuel companies.

The group called upon UUK to meet with the campaign and put fossil fuel divestment on the agenda at its next meeting with university heads.

After presenting the petition, Miriam Wilson, one of the protesters and a student from the University of Glasgow, said she was told by someone at UUK that the campaign would struggle to achieve its aim.

“As the fastest growing climate change campaign in the UK we know that’s not true,” she said.

People & Planet claim universities currently invest £5.2 billion in the fossil fuels industry. The group’s Fossil Free campaign has a presence on 46 campuses and is urging institutions to speed up the transition to renewable energy.

At least 12 universities have already pledged to divest from fossil fuels, according to the group.

Another campaigner, Helena Dunnett-Orridge, a student from the Birmingham branch of the campaign, said: “It is clear that students from around the UK are opposed to universities collaborating with the fossil fuel industry as it is unacceptable for them to continue to invest in the destruction of our planet.”

They added: “We hope that our vice-chancellors take note of today’s action, and invest in their students’ future instead.”

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of UUK, said: “As autonomous bodies, decisions on matters such as research spending and partnerships are made by individual universities.

“All research carried out at UK universities is underpinned by the highest standards of rigour and integrity. This was underlined in 2012 with our signing the new concordat to support research integrity.

“UK universities have been at the forefront of climate change research for a number of decades and are continuing with this important work. The output of this research is playing a vital role in the global search for solutions to environmental problems.

“UUK will continue to work with our members to highlight the invaluable university research taking place in this area and the practical steps universities are taking to address environmental issues.”

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