The Union of UEA Students (UUEAS) has submitted an open letter to the University calling for an end to UEA’s investment in the fossil fuel industry.
According to a Freedom of Information request, the University has over £130,000 invested in fossil fuel extraction companies, including £37,580 in BHP Billiton, £58,683 in Shell and £36,199 in Rio Tinto, despite UEA’s claim to be “an exemplary low carbon campus”.
Writing on the UUEAS blog, Benjamin Brown of the Fossil Free UEA group explained that “climate change is the prime motivation for this campaign, but it’s worth mentioning that the companies that UEA invests in – Shell, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto – all have dubious track records on human rights and are engaged in some the most destructive projects in the world today, including coal mining in Indonesia and Mozambique, the Canadian tar sands and Arctic oil drilling.
According to the IPCC, 80% of fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground if we are to avert a two degree temperature rise, which would trigger catastrophic climate change. The fossil fuel industry’s business plan is to burn five times more carbon dioxide than scientists say we can safely emit and still keep global warming below the 2°C tipping point.”
The Union believes that the nature of the investments is at odds with the university’s position at the forefront of research in to climate science, as well as the UUEAS Ethical Investment policy.
The move comes as part of an international campaign, Fossil Free, which has begun divestment campaigns at over 300 universities across Europe and North America. It is estimated that UK institutions hold £5 billion of endowment funds in fossil fuels, which equates to £2000 per student.
Campaigns have sprung up at 20 UK universities, with the University of Surrey being the first to transfer funds from two unnamed fossil fuel companies to a company focusing on cleaner renewable energy.
Union Environment Officer Emma Silk told Concrete, “This is such an empowering campaign. We are part of a global fossil free movement that has been described as the biggest threat to the fossil fuel industry, and that’s incredible. Divesting from fossil fuels makes a stand against the firms that put profit above all else and show no consideration for the planet or the people on it. We have a real chance to show fossil fuel firms we want no part in their environmental destruction and human rights abuses.”
When contacted for a comment, the University press office said, “The University is aware of the concerns expressed by members of the UUEAS about this issue. The matter will be discussed at a forthcoming meeting of the Executive Team.”