Nearly 50% of all UK universities have joined the global fossil fuel divestment movement by committing to pull their investments out of coal, tar sands and/or oil and gas. People and Planet and student activists have been at the forefront of this, and we work closely with them to help build and facilitate the relationships and skills required for campaigns to win.
Students are pushing this agenda because the fossil fuel industry is committing some of the world's worst indigenous and human rights abuses, whilst simultaneously playing a leading role in creating and exacerbating the climate crisis - which is racist, sexist, ableist, classist and imperialist by its very nature.
Divest-Invest is about challenging the ‘social license’ of fossil fuel companies to operate as they currently do whilst making it possible for renewable initiatives to thrive. It raises important questions about what public money should be used for, the role of our educational institutions within society and how to foster a decarbonised world through a just transition - one that doesn’t just benefit the privileged few, but everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, disability, citizenship status and/or sexual or gender identity.
The campaign acknowledges that as students in the UK we have the power and the privilege to take action. Part of how we can do this is by using our roles within our university and college communities to transform this system from the ground up. This is a system which perpetuates colonial legacies by allowing fossil fuel companies predominantly based in the Global North to build up their power and wealth through the exploitation and dispossession of indigenous and frontline communities predominantly based in the Global South.
Divestment is powerful because it allows for political space to be created for material change to our energy systems and projects, as led by frontline struggles. Indigenous communities have been resisting fossil fuel infrastructure for decades, from the First Nations fighting Canadian tar sands to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe organising against the Dakota Access Pipeline. By amplifying the voices and struggles of communities on the frontlines of both fossil fuel extraction and climate change we can fully embrace our position of privilege to push for social and climate justice globally.
Divestment also creates space to build economic and energy democracy whilst simultaneously funding the just transition to a low-carbon world - through positive reinvestment into community energy projects based in the Global South - and even on our own campuses.
Our research in 2015 found that 44% of students, student officers and staff surveyed believed the UK Government is not taking a lead in addressing climate change and 62% thought that the government is not doing enough to encourage the use of renewable energy.
We also know that 74% of staff and students think that their university should buy renewable energy, and 57% agreed that their university should make a commitment to being powered by 100% renewable energy.
As a result, we are supporting the movement of investments from fossil fuels into renewables. We're not going to allow any new dirty investments in coal, tar sands, oil or gas. We're going to buy and generate loads of wind and solar energy.
We're going to co-create the just and equitable future we want to see.