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Is the University of Oxford about to go Fossil Free?

Monday 23-03-2015 - 12:37

As we discuss divestment at the first ever Student Sustainability Summit, Oxford University Students' Union president Louis Trup writes this guest blog about the ongoing campaign on their campus.

Here at Oxford, we have had rallies, alumni offering to hand back their degrees, petitions for students, and much more. All of these actions have placed increased pressure on the university to take the step made by Glasgow University and divest.

Having such clear statements from so many people makes it a lot easier for students’ union officers to go into committees and channel these feelings inside the establishment.

With this pressure from the inside and out, the university cannot claim to depoliticise itself, as a decision either way would be a political statement. We just need to prove that there is only one way they can go

It is pretty much undeniable now­­—climate change is the burning issue of our age. It increases inequalities between the rich and the poor, it affects women and minorities disproportionately and is changing ecosystems at unprecedented scales.

These chilling facts all come from research conducted at UK educational institutions. Yet almost all of these institutions are holding investments in Fossil Fuel companies that are contributing to the problem.

Every investment is a statement of what is expected to succeed in the future. Fossil Fuels will not provide stable financial returns if the planet is destroyed, or if energy prices are fluctuating due to changing usage and increasingly politically controlled supply.

Divestment makes sound financial sense – that’s why the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation has also pledged to divest.

Not only does divestment make financial sense, our educational institutions have a moral duty to the planet and those who will be disproportionately affected by climate change.

But even if institutions shun that duty, they have a responsibility to be intellectually honest - they must practice what they preach. University produced knowledge on genetics has been implemented to improve treatments for hundreds of diseases in University hospitals and beyond.

University-led research on organisational structures has (for better or for worse) been implemented to improve structures in university administrations and in multiple companies and charities. Why won’t universities listen to their own research and teaching and stop tarring their reputations by contributing to climate change?

Because they won’t listen if we don’t tell them. Students, alumni, staff and community groups must get down to the coal-face and show that continuing to invest in fossil fuels puts our institutions on ever-thinning ice.

A unified voice on the streets, in labs, in lecture theatres and at the highest committees will show that this is an issue that won’t just melt away – we must divest today!

Do you want to start a divestment campaign on your campus? Here's our guide to getting started.

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