You Refused to Divest So We’ve Occupied

13 May

We have just occupied one of the main University management buildings -Charles Stewart House – as we’re thoroughly disappointed with the University’s failure to commit to divestment from fossil fuels. Edinburgh came down firmly on the side of short-term economic interest, with little to no acknowledgement of the long-term repercussions of their investments.


WE ARE OCCUPYING BECAUSE:

* The University of Edinburgh have not committed to divestment.

* The process surrounding the decision to not divest has been extremely un-transparent.

* The decision not to divest has been contrary to the will of students and staff.

* The process surrounding the decision to not divest has not delivered any immediate results.

* People and Planet, the initiators of the campaign, have been excluded from all working group meetings and announcements.

* We’ve had three years of debate and empty promises, the time for action is yesterday.

Yesterday the University of Edinburgh failed to make any commitment to the staff and students, who for the past three years have demanded divestment. After failing to recognise our voice we therefore have decided to take matters into our own hands and up the campaign to make the University listen. Our occupation will last until the University meets our original demands of committing to full divestment from all fossil fuels with them being totally screened out of the investment portfolio over a five year period.

Yesterday the University Court claimed it would use the institution’s ‘leverage of [their] investments to bring about change that reduces carbon emissions in the fossil fuels and other sectors’. However, the proof against green-washing ‘engagement’ has been reiterated on countless different platforms. As Bill McKibbon states, ‘these companies are unlikely to engage in action that will put them out of business’, as is evidenced by BP’s recent decision to pull out of renewables. The fact is, if the University had an interest in changing behaviour it would have started at home by divesting. Divestment would have seen Edinburgh join a global campaign of universities and other forward-thinking organisations, which have divorced themselves from the grip of fossil fuel industries.

In regards to the University’s investment policy, the official press release states, ‘The University will withdraw from investment in these [fossil fuel consuming and extracting] companies if: realistic alternative sources of energy are available and the companies involved are not investing in technologies that help address the effects of carbon emissions and climate change.’ Firstly, this wording is vague and leaves the option of no divestment open. Secondly, the reason there are no large-scale alternative energy sources is because of the failure to invest in them. Despite a three-year process, it seems the university misunderstands divestment. Divestment does NOT mean a cessation in the use of fossil fuels immediately, instead it is about starting the shift from fossil fuels to a renewable economy. Divestment is designed to create space for alternatives to grow.

This non-decision brings into question the validity of the University’s decision-making process. This process began after students voted in favour of the policy in 2012 followed by student representatives starting to raise the issue in board meetings. In 2014 the University ran their own consultation which found staff, students and the public in favour of ethical investment. A year after their consultation we still have zero commitment to change. The University refused to issue their working group report until yesterday and refused student’s entry into the press conference where the decision was announced. At the most important stage, they neglected their responsibility to students.

So we’re not taking it any more, we’re occupying to make a firm stand that the campaign will not be going anywhere until the University commits to fully divest and we will be ignored no longer. 

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