Oxford University defers fossil fuel divestment decision

University council says it needs to give further consideration to call from student’s union to divest £2bn endowment fund from coal and tar sands Oxford university council has deferred a decision on whether to dump its shares in fossil fuels, saying the matter needed thorough consideration. A student union resolution in October called on the council to drop its shares in coal and tar sands companies and shift its investments towards low-carbon industries.

A student union resolution in October called on the council to drop its shares in coal and tar sands companies and shift its investments towards low-carbon industries.A statement released by the council on Monday said: “Last October’s Oxford university student union resolution has raised an important and multi-faceted matter which requires thorough consideration. The university council had a good discussion of the issues and agreed to consider the matter further at a future meeting.”

In response to the students’ request, the university’s Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee last year conducted an inquiry on the divestment of the university’s £2bn endowment. Their report has not been made public. The council discussed the committee’s recommendations on Monday morning and decided to hold off on making a decision.

Oxford student campaigner Ellen Gibson said she was “disappointed” by the decision. “Choosing not to act at a time when inactivity is an increasingly risky and unethical move. Avoidance of divestment by the University will not slow our campaign or indeed the pressing need for meaningful action on the climate crisis.

”Later on Monday, between 10 and 15 student activists peacefully occupied the Clarendon Building, an administrative building at the university. They unveiled a banner and said they intended to stay in the building “until they had made their point”, which could be overnight. While there was a large police presence, no attempt had been made to remove the activists.

John Clements, who was Oxford’s director of finance until 2004, joined the sit in. He said: “We are bitterly disappointed about the university’s failure to come to a decision. Oxford should be leading the move away from investment in all world-destroying fossil fuel companies to more sustainable forms of energy.

”The students’ two-year campaign has been supported by a broad coalition of voices within the university. Alumni, donors and staff have all called on the university to join other educational institutions, including Stanford and Glasgow, in the divestment movement.

Guardian journalist George Monbiot has told the university he will hand back his degree should they fail to divest.

“I think Oxford has a moral responsibility to stop procrastinating and to engage with this issue now. Climate change is the great moral question of our age, and ducking it, as Oxford seems inclined to do, is an insufficient response. It’s a simple matter: does the university continue to invest in the destruction of the benign climatic conditions to which we owe almost everything, or doesn’t it?” he said.

Solar entrepreneur and Oxfordalumnus Jeremy Leggett, who has similarly vowed to return his degree, said: “I don’t think universities should be training young people to craft a viable civilisation with one hand and bankroll its sabotage with the other.

”The university’s relationship with fossil fuel companies goes beyond its investments. Royal Dutch Shell funds a geoscience laboratory at the university, which investigates, and may assist with the extraction of, “unconventional hydrocarbons” (shale gas, shale oil, tight sands, clathrates and coal bed methane). Shell said it did not want to comment on the divestment decision.

Campaigners said the imperative to divest from fossil fuels goes beyond morality.Scientists say more than two thirds of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground ifCampaigners said the imperative to divest from fossil fuels goes beyond morality. catastrophic climate change is to be avoided. This means the companies that hold these reserves may be overvalued.

Oxford’s own stranded assets programme identifies the fossil fuel campaign as the fastest growing divestment movement in history. A total of $50bn has been committed to move out of the industry as a result. High profile institutions to have committed to shift their money include the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the British Medical Association and the World Council of Churches.

Also on Monday, the Guardian launched its campaign calling on two of the world’s biggest philanthropic funds, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, to divest from fossil fuels.




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