Students to re-assert fossil fuel divestment demands
By Rosa Simonet
A protest is taking place under the Whitworth Arch on Wednesday the 21st of February to demand divestment from fossil fuel companies and those allegedly involved in human rights violations.
Student groups have decided that “enough is enough” when it comes to the University’s ongoing investment in fossil fuels. The protest is also calling for complete divestment from companies they believe are complicit in Israeli war crimes, such as Caterpillar.
The protest will start at two o’clock, during the next Board of Governors meeting.
Huda Ammori (Chair of BDS) told The Mancunion that, “all of us are paying obscene amounts of tuition fees towards an institution which is profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation, the arms trade and environmental degradation.”
“We all need to come together for the largest divestment protest yet to show our strong objection to the university’s actions and to hold them to account on their own policies.”
The event page alleges that the University currently invests £7.5 million in fossil fuel companies such as Glencore, Valero Energy and Rio Tinto.
Lizzy Haughton, member of People & Planet and former Ethical and Environmental Student Officer, expressed in her blog how surprised she was by how “difficult it is to implement change in a University so stuck in its old ways.”
Despite campaigning for three years, students had only been told that the University will “review the issue” of their investments in fossil fuels.
60 universities UK wide, now including the University of Edinburgh, have divested from fossil fuels. The University of Manchester is now substantially behind, with a third of UK campuses being completely free from all gas, oil and coal holdings.
A letter containing a collective statement “representing the consensus view of the Sustainable Consumption Institute, School of Social Sciences” detailed reasons as to why the University should divest from fossil fuel companies.
Reasons include “consistency with the University’s social responsibility agenda; and the economic risks of a continued investment in fossil fuels.”
“Social responsibility is one of the three core strategic goals of the University’s Manchester 2020 strategy and commitment to environmental sustainability is a major aspect of that policy.
“We suggest continued institutional investment in the fossil fuel industry is incompatible with a credible commitment to environmental sustainability, and thus social responsibility.”
The University also invest approximately £2,113,435.79 in Caterpillar – according to the no. of shares (24900) invested and the share price ($107.49) at the end of the Fiscal year 2016.
According to BDS and CAAT (Campaign Against the Arms Trade), these investments are also violations of the University’s “socially responsible” investment policy.
A representative from CAAT believes that profiting from military regime “aka murder and genocide is not only a moral crime but it also breaks international humanitarian laws and Human Rights.
“Nancy Rothwell’s unwillingness to listen to the students she is supposed to be representing, particularly in this context, is disgustingly disrespectful.”
Between CAAT, BDS and People Planet we are continuing to make a case against these investments and Nancy’s leadership.
“We are putting together the research so it will be easily accessible for students and academics to access, but creating numbers at the protest is really important for driving the change.”
Deej Malik-Johnson, campaigns and citizenship officer at the Student Union, says he “fully supports students holding the university accountable for the way that it invests and spends our money.”
He adds, “the Student Union has policy to lobby the university to divest from fossil fuels, companies that are involved in the arms trade or who play a part in the occupation of Palestinian land.
“I will continue to speak to the university about these issues, students concerns and about the universities commitment to social responsibility.”
In relation to the protest, the University stated:
“The University announced significant changes to its Socially Responsible Investment Policy in May last year.”
“This will see the University change its relationship with its Investment Managers allowing it to pursue an ethical investment approach, whilst also minimising any potential negative impact on investment returns.
This includes a commitment to identifying and promoting low or zero-carbon investments.”
“In relation to the protests, as usual, the University recognises all students’ right to protest peacefully, providing that this does not unduly disrupt the conduct of the University’s normal business.”