As part of Global Divestment Day on the 13th of February, Manchester students in conjunction with local campaign groups will be demonstrating outside University Place at 12pm for divestment from the fossil fuel industry. Fossil Free are campaigning at the University to freeze, reduce and eventually end all investment in fossil fuels to manage the transition to a renewable and low-carbon energy-based economy. We argue that the University is contradicting its “Policy for Socially Responsible Investment”, which states that “the university will use its influence in an effort to reduce and, ideally, eliminate, irresponsible corporate behaviour leading to… environmental degradation and Human rights violations.”
Our research has revealed as of April 2014, the University of Manchester has 846,337 shares in fossil fuel companies, worth a total of £9,529,172 an increase of £544,805 from last year. A further £29.5 million is invested in the 7 FTSE 100 fossil fuel companies via the University’s pension fund in the form of equity and corporate bonds. In total this represents almost £40m of funding for the indsutry. We have also found that during the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in April 2010, which killed 12 people and caused huge amounts of environmental damage in the Gulf of Mexico, the University’s 646466 shares in BP in April 2010 cost them £2.28 million in share devaluation by the end of June the same year. This highlights the massive volatility in share price, making the case for divestment economic, scientific and moral. The university receives £16.37m in inward investment from BP in various departments, everything from sponsorship to paid staff and research. Shell invests a further £4.74m across the university.
At least two-thirds of current fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned to avoid a catastrophic 2°C rise in temperature, yet the University continues to invest in new carbon-intensive and uneconomical exploration and extraction methods, prolonging our societal addiction to fossil fuels. A global agreement at the UN climate conference in 2015 (COP 21), widely regarded by climate scientists as the last chance to avoid 2°C warming, stands to cost the fossil fuel industry $29.8 trillion over the next two decades (calculated by ExxonMobil who have also warned investors that they see a deal as highly unlikely). It’s time for the University of Manchester to abandon an industry with a business model which is so fundamentally at odds with a safe climate. It’s time invest in a clean and secure future for us all; no amount of wealth is worth the people and planet’s health.
Meet at 12pm at University Place on Friday the 13th of February to demonstrate for divestment from fossil fuels and join over 1500 other people in signing the petition.
They’ll be lucky. The university is driven by its ambition to become one of the top universities in the world. To do that it needs money. I can’t see them turning down £millions. Unfortunately.