Student campaigners presented UEA management with a giant oil rig as “a Christmas present” on Monday 8th December, after the university’s finance group rejected proposals to end UEA’s £135,000 investment in fossil fuels.

The stunt is the latest in a series of protests and actions that are part of the Fossil Free campaign, which calls on large institutions to end their investments in the fossil fuel industry and to speed up the transition to renewable energy. Activists at UEA have been campaigning since late last year for the university to end its investments in such companies as Shell, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

The proposals have been rejected multiple times; the university has said that it is “not a campaigning organisation”, and has apparently now stopped meeting with the UEA Fossil Free group. However, activists have continued to escalate their campaign, pointing to the decision of Glasgow University to divest from fossil fuels.

Protesters handed in a letter demanding fossil fuel divestment to Pro-Vice Chancellor Neil Ward, and presented the oil rig to him as a “gift”, saying that “we heard you like oil”.

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Protesters construct an oil rig outside the Registry. Photo credit: Cadi Cliff

Emma Silk, spokesperson for UEA Fossil Free, said: “By rejecting the calls to divest from fossil fuels, UEA management is not only ignoring the research of its own first-rate climate researchers, but denying the seriousness of climate change. It is unacceptable and absurd that a university which prides itself on its green reputation is funding the companies doing the most to cause as well as deny climate change. The university must reconsider divesting from fossil fuels and re-engage with the Fossil Free campaign. Failing that, they must commit to a campus-wide consultation on fossil fuel divestment”.

A university spokesperson said: “The university has engaged extensively with the Fossil Free UEA Campaign and has welcomed these discussions on matters of global importance.

“The university’s investments are currently managed in a socially responsible way, using established Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) managed pooled funds or by direct investment in companies within the ‘FTSE 4 Good Index’. The ‘FTSE 4 Good Index’ operates within a framework which is externally validated to ensure that companies meet globally recognised corporate responsibility standards [and] is overseen by an independent international committee. Independent research has demonstrated how the ‘FTSE4 Good Index’ has had a positive impact upon environmental management in the corporate sector”.

“The university continues to be committed to the SRI framework [but] recognises that the divestment agenda is a rapidly changing scene. It will continue to monitor developments in the higher education sector and other sectors in the UK and worldwide”.

They added: “The university has discussed with the Fossil Free UEA Campaign how it might engage with the fund managers of the FTSE4 Good Index and other pooled investment funds on the issues of fossil free investments and divestments. The university is also following the development of other investment frameworks with interest”.

Featured image credit: Cadi Cliff