Ditch the Disciplinaries & Divest

21 Apr

Following our picket of Charles Stewart House on April 8th, the university is taking disciplinary action against People and Planet under the student code of conduct.

After a year which has seen over 50 students participating in direct action for the ethical investment campaign, in 2 occupations and multiple pickets, the university has singled out just 6 students for further investigation. The only evidence they are using against us is one picture found on social media of our peaceful protest.

Despite constantly stating that the university defends the rights of students to peacefully protest, the inconsistency with which it is applying its code of conduct makes it clear that this is an attempt to scare people away from taking meaningful action against the university. It is a telling sign of a nation-wide crackdown on political dissent that the university would rather spend time and resources intimidating students, than making a commitment to full divestment.

We will fight this disciplinary action and our campaign continues in full force. We urge everyone to spread the word about this attack on student activism and dissent.solidarity divest Join the fight for divestment and support our students!
Tell the University to drop their disciplinaries & divest instead.
Tweet @EdinburghUni using #defendprotestUoE
and email the principal using principal@ed.ac.uk





A Year On and Edinburgh University Still Has Commitment Issues

4 Apr

We are occupying Charles Stewart House, the university’s financial building, a year on from the ten day sit-in which secured a partial divestment resulting in the removal of investments from coal and tar sands.

Since the occupation last May, and a further blockade of the finance building and one day camp-out outside principal Tim O’Shea’s office this term, the university has further reduced its investments in oil and gas companies, dropping by almost half between November and now. Last week, student campaigners were informed that the university was no longer invested in any companies involved directly in the manufacture of armaments, following a redistribution of investments into the Global Alpha Choice fund. Despite these dramatic reductions, Edinburgh University is yet to make any form of announcement regarding its apparent shifts in its position on ethical investment.

We will end the occupation when the university makes a public commitment to never invest in any companies taking over 5% profit from fossil fuel extraction and arms manufacture, and to withdraw its remaining two oil and gas investments, Apache Inc. and EOG Resources, which stand at just over two million pounds.
Since last year, nineteen UK universities have made commitments to fossil fuel divestment. The ethical investment campaign at Edinburgh is in its fifth year. It’s high time Edinburgh University lives up to its claims of socially responsibility and sustainability and joins the growing number of institutions divesting from destruction.

A letter to Prof. O’Shea from a University Lecturer

20 Feb

The People and Planet campaign to get our University to invest ethically and divest from arms companies and fossil fuels continues. For 5 years we’ve petitioned, written letters, done stunts, sat in meetings, done banner drops and held an occupation. Last week we picketed Charles Stewart House (where University finance are located) and shut down the building because the University are still failing to meet our asks and help save the planet. Following our action Materials Chemistry lecturer Mark de Vries sent this letter of support to the Principal…

Dear Prof. O’Shea,

This is in support of the students from People and Planet Edinburgh Uni and their request for the management to divest from fossil fuels and arms. I appreciate the disruption to normal operations is unwelcome, but such disruption would not have been there if the University had been run democratically, fairly reflecting the views of staff and students.

Half a year on from the latest decisions on this topic by the University a lot has changed. The weather patterns we have all seen this autumn and winter have been thoroughly disturbing and have hurt many households and businesses in the UK. Will we see cherry blossoms in the Meadows this spring? All across Western Europe the buds were coming in December due to the record high temperatures. If these buds are killed off by the later frosts it will be a sad reminder of the consequences of your fossil fuel use and the apparent determination to continue to do so. It is easy to see that already now it becomes more difficult to grow fruit do to chaotic weather patterns. This is just one of the ways climate change is affecting people right now, and increasing inequality and insecurity.

A world without fossil fuels is possible – please be open to alternative views, to an alternative mindset, to low-carbon ways of life. The students from People and Planet are the vocal ones, but also here in the School of Chemistry many staff and students are anxious and want solid action on climate change. Of course the University is doing many good things and I have always been grateful for having been part of this University for so long, but the problem right now is that all of us at the University model a high-carbon lifestyle and work style. This should call for humbleness and a lot of action locally. This is not a time to sit back and proudly look at what we have achieved so far. It is probably unavoidable that we have to accept some financial and existential pain as part of this. However, if we as a society fail to go far enough with our actions, then that is utterly sad, and a great evil. Universities should take the lead and help to avoid this.

With a number of colleagues I wrote a statement in support of the Zero Carbon Britain plan of action for the UK. It is available here:


To limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees we need to be virtually fossil-fuel free before 2035 though. As you know the 1.5 degrees rise is set by scientists and the global community has agreed to work towards this. Please help and put the weight of the University behind this too. It would require far-reaching action right now though. Where there is a will there is a way.

Does the University management agree we should work hard to keep global temperature increases below 1.5 C?


Mark de Vries.


You can also show your support for the campaign by emailing principal@ed.ac.uk

or tweeting @EdinburghUni #divesttherestEd

or giving the University a bad Google review!


Why we’re picketing…

12 Feb

Here’s some statements from some of our picketers about why they’ve spent this morning sitting out in the cold.

I’m here to demand Edinburgh University support the fossil free future that awaits generations to come – Josephine

I’m here because I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the university I attend to stop funding the destruction of communities and the environment with their reckless investments in fossil fuels and arms trading. – Andy

I am here because it is hypocritical that the university which purports to prepare us for a successful future is simultaneously thwarting that future and I want my university to live up to its great reputation and take the only ethical and possible course of action. – Chloe

Edinburgh University has the power to be such a positive force in the world through its investments. – Student Campaigner

I’m here because we are getting dangerously close to tipping point. The longer we give industries that have been complicit in climate denial, profiting from war, humanitarian and environmental destruction the space in our investments the closer we edge towards climate chaos on a scale unimaginable. – Eleanor Dow



I am participating in the action not because I am naive, pathetic, and insensitive, as one of the staff members accused us of being, but because I’ve had enough of months of the University’s only going halfway on a commitment it should have made months ago: to FULLY divest from fossil fuels and arms. As long as my University continues to invest its alumni’s money in violence and climate change, I will continue to protest, doing what it takes for the University to notice us and change ITS insensitive actions.-  Melanie Espamer

I am here because inaction and apathy perpetuate an unequal and unfair world. – Jack Guariento

I’m joining the campaign: I think People & Planet’s work is important and because I want to show the uni that their investments are highly unethical. – Student campaigner

Our University are a shambles. They continue to claim to be a world leader in sustainability while continuing to foot the bill for climate change. Climate change isn’t a joke. It’s destroying our planet and will ruin our lives and decimate those of our future generations. Our University is aware of this but continues to be complicit in funding fossil fuels regardless. – Kirsty Haigh

You can read the official statement on why we’re occupying here: https://investethically.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/today-we-picket-then-you-comply-or-we-occupy/


Today we picket, then you comply or we occupy

12 Feb

This is a statement by People and Planet Edinburgh and supported by the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, Edinburgh University Marxist Society, Edinburgh University Feminist Society, Bollocks to Poverty Society, Scottish Young Labour, Scottish Labour Young Socialists and  Momentum Edinburgh

If Edinburgh University fails to commit to full divestment from arms and fossil fuel companies by Friday 31st March, we will take further action.

Today we are taking action in response to Edinburgh’s continued investments in the fossil fuel and arms industries. After a major occupation of Charles Stewart House, Edinburgh University withdrew its investments in coal and tar sands companies. However, the University has willfully ignored the rest of its unethical investments in weapons, oil and gas. As of November 2015, over six million pounds remain invested in these industries, legitimising the practice of profiting from the deaths, present and future, of some of the most vulnerable peoples in the world. Collectively, we must draw the red lines which Edinburgh cannot cross.

         The first red line is the 2℃ temperature rise which which we must avoid in order to stop catastrophic climate change. To do this, we cannot burn 80% of known fossil fuel reserves, yet this toxic industry persists with its dangerous extraction. This is not simply a matter of emissions. The second red line is that of climate justice, the recognition that climate change is the consequence of resource exploitation and overconsumption by Western colonial powers. We must take action to rectify this historical injustice. We stand in solidarity with those living on the frontlines of climate change, such as those in the US whose water has been polluted by fracking, and indigenous communities whose ancestral homes are being destroyed by tar sands extraction.

        Importantly we are also students uniting against the marketisation of the education system. When universities put profit before global responsibility it is in the hands of students to take action.


*The companies we have identified as manufacturing arms according to our most recent FOI request are Meggitt PLC and Heico Corp. We are aware that the University’s new investment policy means they are no longer investing in Rolls Royce. For future investments, we require Edinburgh to commit to no longer investing in companies whose turnover is made up of over 5% weapons.  

*The companies we have identified as extracting oil and gas are: Apache Corp, BG Group, EOG Resources,Total,EnQuest,Wood Group and Premier Oil PLC. In terms of future investment, we are looking for a commitment to never invest in any company which takes over 5% of its turnover from any fossil fuel.
Red Lines 001


To show your continued support of the campaign you can email: principal@ed.ac.uk

Tweet the University at @EdinburghUni #DivesttherestEd

Was COP a flop?

17 Dec


Last week marked the end of the two week COP21 meetings in Paris where delegates from nearly 200 countries came to discuss a solution to climate change. There has been an incredible amount of praise for the outcome, now called the Paris Agreement, both from mainstream media and large Environmental NGOs. However, there are a number of problems with this agreement which make me question whether this is really an outcome worth celebrating. I have outlined some criticisms below.


1) There has been much praise for the internationally agreed target of limiting global warming to 1.5-2°C. However, this is not legally binding – the only legal requirement is transparency with regard to what your country is doing to help achieve this and for everyone to reconvene once every five years. If we go by the current voluntary pledges on emission reductions each nation has made we will actually have a warming of 2.7-3.7°C, almost double the target. Also these pledges for emission reductions often include market-mechanisms, carbon-offsetting methods and carbon capture and storage (CCS) which all prevent moving away from a carbon-based economy and encourage a reliance on fossil fuels.

2) There will be follow up meetings every 5 years to deepen emission cuts and name-and-shame countries for not making enough effort to do so. This sounds great in theory but if we continue as we are now we will reach our 1.5 target by 2020. Additionally, these meetings are supposed to be “facilitative, non-intrusive, non-punitive’’ which does not give governments a real incentive to take stronger action and make fulfil commitments if all they are going to receive is a stern talking to and mild slap on the wrist.

3) $100 billion will be given to the Global South each year by 2020 to help with adaption to emission reductions and clean technology.

  1. a) This is both an arbitrary figure and is not actually enough money as is needed to fulfil these aims.
  2. b) It has been left vague as to what exactly this money will go towards meaning it could fund anything from making coal powered power plants more ‘efficient’ and ‘green’ (which really is not solving the problem) to funding community owned wind energy (which would be great), but it is clear which project is more likely to be funded (hint: coal).
  3. c) This sum of money is to be collected by voluntary donation from each nation, so whilst the $100 billion is an overarching legally binding agreement, there is no minimum donation a country is committed to make to this.

4) Despite all this money for the Global South, the Global North is still not liable for compensating the damages they’ve caused in the Global South.

5) Countries are to peak greenhouse gas emissions ‘soon’ before rapidly scaling down in the second half of the century. It’s a little understandable why they cannot say ‘now is peak emissions’ but this just allows for complacency without a hard target for when peak emissions should be and scaling down in the second half of the century is frankly just too late and further delaying any real action.

6) The aim of being carbon neutral by 2050 allows for continued carbon emissions by encouraging the use of emission offsets and carbon markets. These mechanisms have many problems including: removing the focus from emission reductions and green energy investment, praising monoculture reforestation used as carbon sinks, using land grabs and causing conflict by displacing indigenous and local people to secure ‘green projects’ for offsetting emissions, and the questionable effectiveness of offset projects themselves etc.

7) There is no mention of taxes/fees/regulation of fossil fuel industries and related emissions let alone other drivers of climate change such as deforestation from large-scale (animal) agriculture, nitrous oxide from poor fertilizer use etc.

8) The way in which nations have framed their emission reductions, either as a ‘cut’ compared to ‘business as usual’ or a year in which emissions were unusually high or in terms of ‘carbon intensity’, has meant that many countries are not actually reducing emissions by the percentage they claim and some have pledged to effectively increase their emissions.

9) On a personal note, maybe I’m being naive with what can actually be achieved in these meetings, but apparently most of the time was spent discussing whether we should limit warming at 1.5°C or 2°C and how much the arbitrary sum of money to give to the Global South should be, instead of discussing actual solutions.


This is by no means an exhaustive list of the problems with the Paris Agreement, but it definitely illustrates why we should not be celebrating this as a victory. The lack of legally binding emission reductions and agreements, lack of taxes on fossil fuel industries and related activities and the use of market-mechanisms and carbon offsets to further entrench ourselves in a carbon-based economy is hardly a step forward. That being said, at least I’ll still have something to do in my spare time.


Shaan Jindal

SJP & why they’re involved in the arms divestment campaign

3 Dec

Breishna Hamed from Students for Justice in Palestine writes about why they joined our campaign to get the University, and wider society, to divest from arms companies. 

The brutal consequences of investing in arms companies are often clouded by scrolls of complicated regulations and vacuous defensive rhetoric. By focusing on the actions of the State of Israel, we hope to highlight how crucial it is to pressure bodies into divesting from arms companies involved in a trade that devastates human lives.

A highly militarized state that profits from the systematic and institutionalized oppression of Palestinians, Israel sustains its lucrative arms trade through war and occupation.

In the last decade it has fought 3 military campaigns against Gaza; Operation Cast Lead leading to the deaths of 1,383 Palestinians, Operation Pillar of Defence leading to the deaths of 174 Palestinians, and Operation Protective Edge leading to the deaths of 2,205 Palestinians. Over the course of Israel’s most recent military campaign, “children in a UN refugee shelter were shelled while they slept, airstrikes hit schools, a hospital and a home for disabled people…family homes were destroyed with the inhabitants inside and whole civilian neighbourhoods were levelled”.


Using arms to further maintain its oppressive regime through military occupation, Israel subjects the Palestinian population to arbitrary arrests, expropriation of their property and severely curtails their freedom of movement. It entrenches practices that amount to segregation by preventing equal access to roads and infrastructure, basic services such as water supplies, and by applying a discriminatory legal system to Palestinians. It continues to construct a Separation Wall, and settlements within the West Bank despite the International Court of Justice ruling that both actions are illegal under International Law. In 2013, Amnesty International noted that Israel “routinely used excessive force against demonstrators in the West Bank.”
The State of Israel carries out these injustices with the most modern and effective weapons available on the market, exporting and importing them on a regular basis.


These lists of wrongdoings are sometimes overwhelming and do not do justice to the nuances of the lives that the figures represent.


Muhammad Abu al – Thahir was 16 when he was shot from long range and killed, while at a demonstration in the West Bank. He was a skilled football player and often trained his little brother, Omar, on the roof of their home. His dream was to go to university and be a journalist. He wanted to send a message to the world so that they could help end the injustices of the occupation.


Israeli military will attest to the success of their weapons because they are ‘field tested’ and ‘combat proven’. It is business as usual for arms companies, profiting from violence and war crimes.


Investing in arms companies provides them with a sense of legitimacy, and ignores the repression, aggravation of conflict, death, destruction, human rights and international law violations that are eventually caused. Investments in companies that provide arms to any such oppressive regimes cannot be ethically justified.

While it can be difficult to work through the intricacies of finding out whether bodies have invested in unethical companies, it is crucial to do so because companies that harm human welfare must be held accountable. Although divestment campaigns may not immediately impact arms companies economically speaking, the change in discourse inevitably affects their political clout. That change in discourse has the potential to help in the dismantling of apartheid regimes. By drawing the connection between companies that provide the tools for state oppression and the blatant destruction caused, we hope that divestment from these companies will be pursued as an effective means of pushing back against these oppressive regimes.






The Tories are no friend of the environmental movement

29 Nov

Yesterday we attended Scotland’s Climate March and were absolutely delighted by the turnout of about 6,000 coming together to stand up for the environment.

However, we were appalled that the Tories had been given a platform to speak at the rally.

Someone told us off for heckling them, as we were all here together in unity.

We are not in unity about climate change with the Tories.

Let’s be crystal clear, the Conservatives are choosing to destroy the planet and do nothing to protect our futures. They are not on our side. They are the people our march is trying to change the opinions of because they are the people who are currently shunning all of our campaigning and laughing at our environmental demands. These people are not on our side and to pretend so is utterly ridiculous. Being the party of the government the Tories don’t need to be given any additional platforms – especially when they don’t agree with the aims of the march.

Giving them a platform allows them to greenwash, to pretend they care about the climate. It makes it seem like they are on our side and is offensive to those who have spent their time campaigning to try and stop the government’s slashing of any remotely environmentally sound policy.

After 5 years of attacks since retaking power the Tory government are decimating the renewable energy industry removing the subsidies for wind, solar and biomass industries.   This has happened to such an extent that the UK has dropped out of the top ten on a respected international league table on renewable energy. Meanwhile the Tories are maintaining their intimate relationship with the fossil fuel companies that are causing global temperatures to rise so dramatically. They’re making no efforts to phase out fossil fuels or even to limit their damaging effects: just last week the Tories broke their manifesto promise and cancelled the £1bn pounds for carbon capture and storage.

Our march should not only have been condemning all of this but also slating the fact Cameron has appointed a former consultant to major oil and gas companies as the key advisor on energy and environmental policy before the climate summit in Paris.

The Conservatives are about profit, not people and not the planet.

All the parties have a long way to go with their environmental policies but one thing is sure, the Tories are not  working to slow the effects of climate change. We’re hurtling towards catastrophic climate change and they’re profiting from it.

P.S We’re pretty sure you could have found a presenter for the rally who was not suspended from a job for inappropriate behaviour towards a female colleague, but that’s another serious issue entirely

Divestment must also include ‘uncontroversial’ arms

22 Sep

Today the University of Edinburgh has announced that it will no longer be investing ‘controversial’ arms which is good but nowhere near good enough.

Senior Vice-Principal Charlie Jeffery has said: “This is an important phase in our review and demonstrates the University’s commitment to responsible investment” however I think this is little more than an attempt to gain some good publicity.

Let’s be clear, there’s no such thing as uncontroversial arms. Arms kill people whether or not they are classed as controversial. A commitment to responsible investment would involve divestment from all arms manufacturers.

We’re now in the 4th year of our campaign with students, staff and the public calling for the University to divest from arms and fossil fuels. We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again: Edinburgh University should not be funding environmental devastation, human rights abuses and war. It’s a publicly funded institution and the money it invests should benefit society.

Both this, and the divestment earlier in the year from coal and tar sands, are a step in the right direction but ultimately are a half-hearted attempt showing no real commitment to responsible investment. They have taken action because we have forced them too and have not divested willingly. If the University realise that investments in coal, tar sands and controversial arms are unacceptable then they should be able to understand how ‘uncontroversial’ arms and natural gas and oil kill people too.

We’ve been delighted to have the Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre back our campaign and Brian Larkin thier coordinator highlighted that ‘although the University divested from one Drones manufacturer last year its list of “controversial” weapons does not include drones. This is a concern because it still has investments in Meggitt plc a manufacturer of drones and drones now used extensively in Afghanistan and implicated widely in civilian deaths. Besides manufacturing drones Meggitt sells weapons to Bahrain, with its record of human rights violations’.

Last week the University launched their new Climate Change campaign with which the “aim is to become a hub within the wider city for the exchange of ideas and opinions about how best to tackle one of the world’s great global challenges.” This is great but it would be much better if the University decided to practice what it preaches. They pitch themselves to the world as a leader in sustainability and a socially responsibility yet behind closed doors are continuing to fund the destruction they pretend to fight against.

By Kirsty Haigh

Partial Progress! Edinburgh to divest from coal and tar sands…

16 Jun

Nearly three weeks ago, on Wednesday 27th, Edinburgh University released a statement signalling its intention to divest from three of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies in the next six months due to their exploitation of coal and tar sands.

It was jubilating news but we didn’t quite believe it.

The trio of veteran People & Planeters delegated to meet with the university that morning, shortly before the statement’s release, returned with expressions of confused optimism, delivering the news to the rest of us in a hesitating tone: ‘I think, we might have won…?’

It’s not that we weren’t expecting them to give ground, some form of capitulation seemed inevitable, but hitherto our interactions had left us with a dim and distrustful view of the university. Considering the duplicitous hypocrisy of their position throughout the occupation, outwardly professing their support for our right to peaceful protest, while simultaneously attempting to stonewall criticism and stifle the occupation, our caution wasn’t totally unjustified.

A couple of hours later the statement was released: ‘The University is writing to three of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers to inform them that it intends to fully divest from their activities within the next six months.’ (Full statement: http://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2015/fossilfuelsupdate-260515)

The media rapidly picked up the story, reporting the university’s new commitment to divest from coal and tar sands, and we breathed an explosive sigh of relief at how hard it would be for them to renege now. Everywhere the words ‘backtracks’ and ‘U-turns’ cropped up and this is an important part of the victory. It’s empowering, rightly crediting the protesters’ capacity to influence the university.

Actually this whole campaign has been a testament to the value of activism. It has inspired a huge range of people – staff, students and the general public – and managed to reach so many who wouldn’t normally describe themselves as ‘activists’. The comprehensive panoply of news coverage, the avalanche of support from individuals and organisations across the world, and most significantly the success of forcing the university to listen, all attest to protest being both efficacious and worthwhile.

Something has clearly been achieved but precisely what remains to be seen. The university’s commitments are full of disconcerting shortcomings. For starters, this is obviously not complete divestment, not even close. No promises have been made about other fossil fuels (oil and gas, for example), only about the most harmful ones (coal and tar sands) and for the university to stop here would be an unpardonable moral cop-out.

Even with coal and tar sands there is a worrying haziness surrounding Edinburgh’s intention to give fossil fuel companies four weeks to respond, a face-saving measure included in deference to the university’s commitment to engaging with fossil fuel companies. (Quickly, let’s be clear that this is ridiculous. Investment funds and institutions have been promising to ‘engage’ fossil fuel companies for years with no meaningful results. Edinburgh has an endowment fund of around £300m but its investments are still a pathetic pittance relative to the amount invested in multinational fossil fuel companies. To suggest that they have the investor clout to fundamentally change the behaviour of such companies is at best ludicrously hubristic, and at worst a disingenuous avoidance tactic.)

When we directly pressed them on this, ‘what could these companies say or do to stop you from divesting?’, they refused to specify. Quite apart from the total lack of transparency, this allows for the alarming possibility that they might accept the most environmentally insignificant, meagre token gesture as grounds for wriggling out of divestment. This would, of course, be a huge betrayal which would invariable precipitate a furious backlash, but could set the whole campaign back to square one.

Perhaps this seems paranoid? Call me an unforgiving cynic but I don’t think Edinburgh University’s senior management have been struck by an environmental road-to-Damascus change of heart (no energy-saving-lightbulb moment, as it were). Important and welcome as their promise is, it will remain a hollow gesture if not promptly followed by meaningful steps towards divestment. It will take an awful lot more for Edinburgh to prove – to its students and to the world – that it takes seriously its investment responsibilities.

Luckily for the university they’ve got People & Planet here to help! The demands of the ethical investment campaign remain as they were when it was launched three years ago: that Edinburgh University divests completely and permanently from all fossil fuels and arms companies.

Over the past two weeks we’ve been discussing how best to pursue these aims. The university’s working group on arms investments will be meeting over the summer and People & Planet will be calling for a strong stance to be taken against arms investments. Crucially we will also be holding the university to account on its coal and tar sands promise, monitoring progress to ensure it meets its divestment commitment.

The success of two weeks ago has buoyed spirits and going into the next academic year the campaign has a vigorous momentum and many new members. We will be looking into collaborations with other activist groups as well as reaching out to university staff to strengthen our campaign as we call upon the university to ‘divest the rest’ (catchier slogans are still in development.).

So it’s a wonderful relief to see Edinburgh backtracking and taking some very welcome steps towards divestment; but there’s a long way to go and we won’t be resting on our laurels. Ardent congratulations and thanks to everyone who has been involved and given People & Planet such incredible support. We hope to see you soon as the campaign continues.