Students at the University of Manchester, who have been campaigning on the issue of fossil fuel divestment for almost three years, claim they have “stepped up their game this year”
The university’s newly formed People and Planet society have taken a number of actions in support of the UK’s rapidly growing fossil fuel divestment movement since September, including holding protests ahead of the Finance Committee meetings, persistently emailing the Board of Governors, and meeting with the President of the university, Dame Nancy Rothwell, to ask her opinions on the movement.
As yet, they have had no commitment to their request for full divestment, other than remarks that they will “review the issue in the coming months”.
On Wednesday the students staged their biggest protest yet, which consisted of a march around the main campus, decorating the Whitworth gates with biodegradable orange balloons (the colour of the divestment movement) and speeches given in support.
Speakers included Seb Leaper, one of the campaign’s student leaders, and Dave Durant, one of the leaders of the movement at King’s College London. Kings committed to full divestment by 2022 last week, following six months of action and culminating in a 14-day hunger strike from one of their PhD students.
Sorcha Floyd, the Campaigns and Citizenship Exec Officer at the University of Manchester Students’ Union said: “One of the main reasons to hold the protest was to get the word out, to educate our students about what divestment is and why it’s so important, and we definitely achieved that today.”
British universities currently have £5.2 billion invested in fossil fuel companies. Over a quarter of UK universities have made commitments to divest from fossil fuels, including Glasgow, SOAS, Edinburgh, and Manchester Metropolitan. Most recently, the University of Bristol made a commitment to partially divest by 2018.
One of the campaigners, Callum Tyler, said after the protest: “We know the Board of Governors have the issue of Divestment on their agenda, and although we hope that they will make the right decision given our efforts, this protest has only strengthened our campaign, and I hope they all know that we will not stop until we get full divestment.”
The University of Manchester had no comment.