News / Education

Students in Bristol Uni divestment demands

By Scott Salter, Tuesday Nov 10, 2015

Thousands of people are calling on the University of Bristol to withdraw millions of pounds worth of  investments in the fossil fuel industry.

Campaigners want Bristol to follow other universities towards “divestment”, a move which would see funds diverted to environmentally friendly alternatives.

A petition was handed on Monday directly to the university’s new vice chancellor Hugh Brady, who said they “hope to reach a conclusion” on the matter soon.

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Rachel Simon, right, stands with protesters and her petition.

Despite the univesity’s Cabot Institute’s aims to “tackle the challenges of uncertain environmental change” and a pledge to become a net carbon neutral campus by 2030, the university was found to have invested £2,646,651 into 14 companies within the fossil fuels sector, according to an investigation by The Bristol Cable.

Staff at the university recently penned an open letter led by Cabot Institute member, Professor Chris McMahon of the Engineering Faculty, which lent its support to the divestment campaign.

Campaigners are urging the University of Bristol to join a growing list of the many UK universities that have already divested including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford and Surrey.

Students and campaigners held a protest on campus on Monday before handing in their petition. Rachel Simon, 26, an environmental policy post-graduate, told Bristol24/7: “We want the University to show that it doesn’t endorse these activities and we want the Government to take strong action on fossil fuel extraction and climate change.”

“Especially in the run up to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference in December. That’s when the United Nations are coming together to try to achieve the climate change targets and agreements.”

Students campaigning and signing the petition on Monday.

Carla Denyer, Green Party councillor for Clifton East, said: “As a local councillor, I have been elected to represent people in Bristol who are concerned about the sustainability of our current economic direction of travel, and who have entrusted me to work towards solutions.” 

“I have received correspondence from local residents as well as students and academic staff who would like to see our great Bristol institutions, including this University, setting a lead in tackling climate change”.

In response to the petitions, University of Bristol said: “We have met with our students to discuss their concerns and we’re looking closely at the complex issues related to fossil fuel investments within our overall investment portfolio.

“The majority of our endowment investments are in a pooled fund managed by Sarasin and Partners, which is structured specifically for charitable endowments and the fund operates to high levels of governance and ethical standards. 

“We have met with Sarasin and Partners to explore some of these issues. Our considerations are ongoing and we hope to reach a conclusion soon.”

Students campaigning for divestment said they were aware change can’t happen overnight, but they added: “We’ve got a new vice chancellor so we’re really hoping that he’s going to listen”.

A decision is expected in 2016.

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