Press Release: University of Manchester ‘stall’ on fossil fuel divestment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

University of Manchester ‘stall’ on fossil fuel divestment

Today 8th July 2015 – The University of Manchester’s Board of Governors today deferred the decision on whether or not to divest over £9.5 million from the fossil fuel industry.

Joel Smith of the Fossil Free Manchester campaign said: “The stalling regarding divestment by the University today represents indecision on a crucial and immediate issue which is already impacting communities globally. It seems like the University is deeply considering divestment and from the tone of the conversation it will be taken very seriously. Nevertheless it is disappointing that it has not acted swiftly in following the seven other universities in the UK taking the lead on climate change by divesting. However, we are hopeful of the correct decision following a full review of the issue and we will continue to take all action necessary to ensure a positive outcome.”

The deferral for full review by the University’s Finance Committee follows a year-long student-led campaign for divestment by the Fossil Free Manchester campaign group [1], which has seen an open letter signed by 96 University of Manchester academics [2], a 2,000 strong student petition, lobbying from the Students’ Union and numerous creative actions taken around campus.

The University of Manchester currently invests over £9.5 million in shares in six of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies including Shell, BP, Glencore Xstrata, Tullow Oil and Rio Tinto. Yesterday 96 University of Manchester staff, including author Jeanette Winterson and the renowned climate change academic Kevin Anderson, signed a letter stating: “We believe this is a tremendous opportunity for the University of Manchester to demonstrate decisive and forward-thinking leadership on one of the most pressing global issues of our time… We hope you will give serious consideration to our students’ demands that the university commits to freezing new investment in fossil fuel companies and divesting within five years from the top 200 fossil fuel companies that control the majority of carbon reserves.”[2]

Andrew Taylor Fossil Free campaigns manager at People & Planet said: “There is overwhelming support for universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry both in Manchester and across the UK, which makes it frustrating that they weren’t more decisive today. Why do Manchester University think that their Finance committee will find anything different to Oxford, Glasgow or Warwick?”

There is growing concern among students and staff at universities and other institutions globally about the dangers of climate change and the “carbon bubble” which threatens the £5.2 billion UK universities collectively invest in the fossil fuel industry. Over 200 institutions globally, with a combined asset size of over $60 billion, have committed to divestment, including the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the British Medical Association, and the Church of England [3]. Fossil fuel divestment is the fastest-growing divestment movement in history and is continuing to gain momentum for both moral and financial reasons [4]. AXA Insurance and the Norwegian Sovereign wealth fund also recently announced they would end investment in coal [5, 6].

[ENDS]

Notes for editors

Contact: Naomi Wilkins 07909553497

Notes:

  1. Fossil Free Manchester is part of the national P&P network of Sixth Form and Universitystudents campaigning on world poverty, human rights and the environment. Seehttp://peopleandplanet.org
  2. The full text of the open letter from university academics is available athttps://fossilfreemcr.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/open-letter-from-staff-to-the-university-of-manchester/
  3. For a full list of all the institutions that have divested, seehttp://gofossilfree.org/commitments/
  4. http://www.arabellaadvisors.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Measuring-the-Global-Divestment-Movement.pdf
  5. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/22/axa-divest-high-risk-coal-funds-due-threat-climate-change
  6. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/05/norways-pension-fund-to-divest-8bn-from-coal-a-new-analysis-shows

Photos: http://bit.ly/FossilFreeManchesterPhotos

The campaign so far: http://bit.ly/FossilFreeManchesterSoFar

Open letter from staff to the University of Manchester

Dear Vice-Chancellor & the Board of Governors,

We are writing to you as staff of the University of Manchester to add our voices to the two-thousand strong student petition that has already called for the university to end its investment in the fossil fuel industry and actively reinvest in socially and environmentally responsible funds. We urge the Board to assess this industry more carefully in accordance with our Policy for Socially Responsible Investment as we believe it to be environmentally degrading and socially irresponsible [1]. This would be a major positive step for the university in seriously committing to its third core goal of social responsibility.

Taking into account various considerations such as:

  1. Scientists have demonstrated that 60-80% of fossil fuel reserves must remain underground if the crucial threshold of two degrees of warming is to be avoided [2].
  1. The business model of fossil fuel companies is currently incompatible with a safe climate, they show unwillingness to engage with or adjust to this scenario [3][4] and we believe divestment will more readily encourage the necessary transition to a low carbon economy.
  1. Climate change presents an international challenge and our institution must take all appropriate actions to mitigate for the associated risks.
  1. The Bank of England has warned of the financial risks of investing in assets which may become ‘stranded’ due to government policy [5]. These comments have been echoed by the Energy & Climate Change secretary who has voiced support for divestment campaigns [6].
  1. 42 cities, 26 Universities & Colleges, 72 religious organisations and 48 other institutions (with total assets of over $50bn) have already committed to divesting.
  1. Removing fossil fuels would reduce the volatility of our portfolio and have little effect on the rate of return of our investment [7].

We believe this is a tremendous opportunity for the University of Manchester to demonstrate decisive and forward-thinking leadership on one of the most pressing global issues of our time.   We hope you will give serious consideration to our students’ demands that the University commit to freezing new investment in fossil fuel companies and divesting within 5 years from the top 200 fossil fuel companies that control the majority of carbon reserves.

Signed,

Prof Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change

Dr Steven Jones, Senior Lecturer in Education

Dr Antonio Fortin, Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language

Dr Veronique Pin-Fat, Senior Lecturer in International Politics

Dr Daniel Welch, Research Associate, Sustainable Consumption Institute

Sophie A. Lewis, PhD candidate and GTA (SEED)

Dr Jim Boran, EPS Researcher Development Manager

Matthew Stallard, PhD Researcher

Prof John Aplin, Professor of Reproductive Biomedicine

Jeanette Winterson, Professor of Creative Writing

Dr Hal Gladfelder, Senior Lecturer in 18th & 19th Century Literature & Culture

Dr John Broderick, Knowledge Exchange Fellow, School of MACE, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester

Prof Peter J Eccles, Professor of Mathematics

Gemma Moss, Graduate Teaching Assistant

Neil Briggs, Applications Analyst, IT Services

Prof Nicholas Goddard, Professor of Analytical Science

Dr Deborah Talmi, Lecturer

Prof Ian Miles, Professor of Technological Innovation and Social Change, MBS

Reynard Spiess, Experimental Officer

William F. Lamb, PhD Researcher

Dr Wiebke Brockhaus-Grand, Senior Lecturer

Jo Lowe, Clinical Trial Project Manager

Dr Richie Nimmo, Lecturer in Sociology

James Schumm, IT Officer

Dr Peter Knight, Senior Lecturer in American Studies

Dr Chris Westrup, Senior Lecturer, MBS

James Anderson, Study Co-ordinator

Mary Begley, PhD Student, GTA, LEL

Dr Jonathan Dewsbury, Lecturer

Prof Roseanne McNamee, Professor of Epidemiological Statistics

Ruth Costello, Research Assistant

Rebecca Hays, Research Associate

Dr Eithne Quinn, Senior Lecturer in American Studies

Dr J. Michelle Coghlan, Lecturer in 19th-Century American Literature & Culture

Dr Howard Booth, Senior Lecturer in English Literature

Dr Fred Schurink, Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature

Dr Will Turner, Graduate Teaching Assistant, English & American Studies

Prof Laura Doan, Professor of Cultural History, EAC

Dr Natalie Zacek, Senior Lecturer in American Studies

Dr Robert Spencer, Lecturer in Postcolonial Literature and Culture

Dr Jerome de Groot, Senior Lecturer

Dr Ian McGuire, Co-Director, Centre for New Writing

Dr Noelle Gallagher, Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture

Dr Carl Death, Senior Lecturer in International Politics

Dr Ruth Wood, Lecturer in Environment and Climate Change

Dr Nicholas Turnbull, Lecturer

Dr Aoileann Ni Mhurchu, Lecturer in International Politics

Prof Douglas Kell, Research Professor in Bioanalytical Science

Dr Suzanne Marie Embury, Senior Lecturer

Dr Roger George Noble, Software Engineer

Prof Brian Saunders, Professor of Polymer and Colloid Science

Dr David Moss, Honorary Reader in Mathematics

Dr Bram Vanhoutte, Research Associate, CMIST

Prof Stefan Bouzarovski, Professor of Geography

Jon Shute, Lecturer

Dr Judith Hebron, Research Fellow and Lecturer

Prof Helen Beebee, Samuel Hall Professor of Philosophy

Dr Benjamin J Coe, Reader in Chemistry

John McAuliffe, Reader in Modern Literature and Creative Writing

Dr David Harris, Reader in Mathematics

Sam Tygier, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr Stephanie Collins, Lecturer in Political Theory

Daniel Wilson, Technician

Dr Iain Brassington, Senior Lecturer, School of Law

Dr Lee Margetts, Lecturer, School of MACE

Gwyneth Lonergan, PhD Candidate

Dr Simone Turchetti, Lecturer on History of Science & Climate Change

Prof Chris Parkes, Professor of Physics

Dr Tom McClelland, Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr Althea Wilkinson, SKA SADT Consortium Project Manager

Dr Ann Whittle, Lecturer in Philosophy

Dr Mike Ingleson, Reader and Royal Society University Research Fellow

Dr Richard Child, Lecturer in Political Theory

Dr Liam Shields, Lecturer in Political Theory

Prof Pedro Mendes, Professor of Computational Systems Biology

Prof John O’Neill, Hallsworth Chair In Political Economy

Dr Laurence Stamford, Lecturer in Sustainable Chemical Engineering

Helen Breewood, PhD Candidate

Dr Michael Sanders, Senior Lecturer

Stephen P Blatch, Technician

Dr Christopher Blanford, Lecturer in Biomaterials

Dr Simeon Gill, Lecturer in Fashion Technology

Professor Paul Mummery, Chair in Nuclear Materials

Prof Stephen Bottoms, Professor of Contemporary Theatre & Performance

Prof Ross D. King, Professor of Machine Intelligence

Prof Nicholas John Higham, Emeritus Professor of History

Dr Peter Cooke, Senior Lecturer in French

Jane Mortimer, DL/Collaborative Admin Assistant

Dr Clara Dawson, Lecturer in English Literature and Poetry

Jonathan Crosier, Research Fellow

Prof Nigel Ray, Professor of Pure Mathematics

Dr Kevin Gillan, Lecturer in Sociology

Dr Christian Schemmel, Lecturer in Political Theory

Dr Miriam Ronzoni, Senior Lecturer in Political Theory

Dr Hayley Bradley, Teaching Fellow References

Marc Hudson, PhD Candidate

References

  1. The University of Manchester, Policy for Socially Responsible Investment

http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=659

  1. Carbon Tracker, Unburnable carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets, 2013

http://www.carbontracker.org/report/wasted-capital-and-stranded-assets/

  1. Jonathon Porritt, The Guardian, It is ‘impossible’ for today’s big oil companies to adapt to climate change, January 2015

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/15/it-is-impossible-todays-big-oil-companies-adapt-climate-change-jonathon-porritt

  1. Mat Hope, The Carbon Brief, What the fossil fuel industry thinks of the ‘carbon bubble’, July 2014

http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2014/07/we-ask-the-fossil-fuel-industry-what-it-thinks-of-the-carbon-bubble/

  1. Paul Fisher, Speech from Economist’s Insurance Summit, Confronting the challenges of tomorrow’s world, March 2015

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/speeches/2015/speech804.pdf

  1. Terry Macalister, The Guardian, Ed Davey backs Guardian climate change campaign, March 2015

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/17/ed-davey-backs-fossil-fuel-divestment-very-risky-coal

  1. Patrick Geddes et al, Aperio Group, Building a carbon-free equity portfolio, 2014 https://www.aperiogroup.com/resource/138/node/download
Positive feedback could destabilise the climate

An introduction to the science of climate change

Introduction

In this blog post, we hope to give you a quick introduction to the science of climate change. This is aimed at those who may not be familiar with the science behind the ideas, so some explanations have been simplified. We feel that understanding why climate change is happening is essential for understanding why we are campaigning for fossil fuel divestment, so please share this blog post with as many people as possible.

The ‘greenhouse effect’

The ‘greenhouse effect’ refers to the trapping of heat by certain gases known as greenhouse gases in the atmosphere [1]. This is entirely natural and it keeps the planet considerably warmer than it would be otherwise. Scientists estimate that without the greenhouse effect, global temperatures would be 33°C lower than they are today [2]. You can compare the effect to a car left in the sunshine: light passes through the glass, but the heat produced is unable to pass back out through the glass, causing the car to heat up.

The greenhouse effect

Fig. 1: The greenhouse effect (image source – US EPA 2012)

How can humans influence the climate?

People affect the climate by changing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. An example of a greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. Modern industrial society burns fossil fuels in vast quantities, providing electricity for your gadgets, aeroplane fuel for your next holiday flight, energy to manufacture fertiliser to grow our meals, and countless other uses. Apart from CO2, other greenhouse gases are also emitted by society. For example, methane (25 times stronger than CO2 in terms of contribution to the greenhouse effect [3]) is released in large quantities by animal farming; refrigerant gases (such as hydrofluorocarbons, which can be hundreds or thousands as times as strong as CO2 [3]) can leak from our fridges and freezers. Our emissions can change the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This changes the strength of the greenhouse effect and the temperature of the planet.

What changes have been observed so far?

We have seen how it is theoretically possible for humans to affect the Earth’s climate – but have we actually seen evidence of any changes? In short, the answer is yes. Here are just a few examples of measured changes:

  • CO2 levels have increased by 40% compared to the pre-industrial era [4].
  • Surface air temperatures have increased by 0.85°C since 1880 [4].
  • Oceans have also warmed, taking up about 90% of the extra heat caused by warming [15].
  • Sea levels have risen by 10 to 20 cm over the last century [5].
  • Oceans have become more acidic due to dissolved CO2, causing the shells of some sea creatures to dissolve [6].

Feedback effects and tipping points

The Earth is a hugely complex system and does not react to changes in a simple way. Two types of feedback effect exist:

  • Positive feedback, or a vicious cycle, means that a little amount of warming triggers further warming.
  • Negative feedback, or a virtuous cycle, means that a little warming has an effect that slows down warming.

An example of a positive feedback loop is the release of methane from permafrost (permanently frozen soil, found near the poles) and the seabed. Huge amounts of methane are stored in permafrost and on the seabed in formations called ‘clathrates’. Recall that methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2. As permafrost melts due to higher temperatures, more methane is released into the atmosphere, causing further warming. Methane releases have been implicated in previous abrupt climate shifts [8]. Some reports suggest that methane is already being released from the Arctic [9].

Positive feedback could destabilise the climate

Fig. 2: Use of fossil fuels could destabilise the climate by starting a vicious cycle of warming

There are many more examples of positive feedback effects, e.g. warming oceans release more CO2; melting sea ice exposes dark sea which absorbs more heat; forests dry out and become a source of CO2, rather than absorbing it.

An example of a negative feedback effect is that as CO2 levels rise, trees and plants may absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere.

The question is, which has more influence – positive or negative feedback effects? Since the climate system is so complex, it is difficult to predict the exact outcome [7]. It has been suggested that warming of merely 1.5°C would be sufficient to thaw significant regions of permafrost and release large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere [12]. Note that today we are already at 0.8°C of warming, and are already committed to perhaps another 1°C of warming even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, because the climate takes some time to respond to changes in the atmosphere [13].

The more fossil fuels we burn, the more we risk reaching a tipping point at which warming will speed up of its own accord and destabilise the climate irreversibly. We have to stop burning fossil fuels BEFORE we reach such a tipping point.

What does the future hold?

Here are just some of the predicted effects of climate change, as described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [10].

  • Ecological
    • Global surface temperatures could rise by up to 4.8°C by 2100, depending on our levels of emissions. Bear in mind that the average temperature difference between the last ice age and today was only around 4 to 7°C (and this temperature rise took place over thousands of years), so what may sound like a small increase is actually very significant [14].
    • Many species face a greater risk of extinction since they cannot adapt fast enough to new climatic conditions.
    • Droughts and high temperatures may cause forests to die back, with associated loss of services that forests provide to us (e.g. clean water, wood production).
  • Human
    • Sea levels could rise by 0.3m – 0.8m by 2100 (depending on emissions), causing the flooding of low-lying countries and island states. Sea level rise may continue for centuries.
    • Agricultural yields will be reduced in many places and fisheries will be affected, meaning that providing food for everyone will be difficult.
    • Existing health risks would be made worse by climate change, e.g. diseases may spread to new geographical areas.
  • Economic
    • Climate changes impacts may slow down economic growth (this would happen before we actually run out of fossil fuels).
    • Poverty reduction will become more difficult.
    • Impacts will generally affect poor people and countries more than the rich.
    • There will be increased migration and conflict as climate change will worsen existing conflicts over resources.

It is worth noting that the models used in the IPCC’s latest report do not account for the effect of melting permafrost because they are difficult to predict accurately [11]. This does not mean that the risks can be ignored – the IPCC says “There is a high risk of substantial carbon and methane emissions as a result of permafrost thawing” [10]. Hence, the IPCC’s estimates of impacts are likely to be too low!

Conclusion

We have now seen what climate change is and how humans have contributed to it. In our next blog post, we will explore why we, as a species, continue to burn fossil fuels even though it is clearly so dangerous to our future survival.

References

[1] http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/grnhse.html

[2] http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/ma_01/

[3] http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch2s2-10-2.html – 100 year time horizon

[4] http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_Chapter02_FINAL.pdf

[5] http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-sea-level-rise/

[6] http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-acidification

[7] http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate-change/guide/science/explained/feedbacks

[8] http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/32/1/53.short

[9] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/327/5970/1246.full

[10] http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_LONGERREPORT.pdf

[11] http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/8/085003/pdf/1748-9326_9_8_085003.pdf

[12] http://www.climategeology.ethz.ch/publications/2013_Vaks_et_al.Scienceexpress.pdf

[13] http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050314/full/news050314-13.html

[14] http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page3.php

[15] http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/09/what-ocean-heating-reveals-about-global-warming/

Divestment at the University of Manchester: why are we doing this?

Definition: “DIVESTMENT” is the reduction of some kind of asset for financial, ethical, or political objectives.


Climate change – the scientific context

Climate change, caused by emissions of greenhouse gases from burning oil, gas and coal, threatens the lives and livelihoods of billions of people around the world. Climate change directly causes the deaths of over 400,000 people every year, with 98% of these deaths in developing countries [1]. Extreme weather events — the floods, droughts, hurricanes, melting icecaps and wildfires we’ve seen in recent years — are increasing in frequency, duration, size and intensity as we heat up our planet [2]. Estimates vary but suggest that by the end of the century global temperatures will have increased by 4-6°C, making large swathes of the planet uninhabitable and triggering mass migration as people fight for declining resources [3]. Clearly climate change is no longer a future threat, it’s a clear and present danger: we’re calling for widespread divestment from the fossil fuel industry in order to prevent this from happening, to send a message for change.

Greenwashing by fossil fuel companies

Shell’s human rights and environmental abuses are well documented. In the Niger Delta, it is estimated that the company burns excess gas from oil wells (a process known as “gas flaring”) with a volume of 2.5 billion cubic feet, equivalent to 40% of all Africa’s natural gas consumption in 2001, every day [4]. Every single day. The toxins released in this process adversely affect the lives and livelihoods of communities in the NIger Delta, leading to increased risk of premature deaths, child respiratory illnesses, asthma and cancer [4]. Companies such as Shell show blatant disregard for people and the environment in their industrial practices, whilst simultaneously bombarding people with messaging to suggest their organisation has environmental and social credibility. This “greenwash” overstates a company’s eco-credentials manipulating the public into having a more positive attitude toward them, which further encourages inaction and disengages people from the issue. A recent advert said “Tackling climate change and providing fuel for a growing population seems like an impossible problem, but at Shell we try to think creatively”, alongside a diagram of a human brain, divided into sections labelled “fuel from algae”, “fuel from straw”, “fuel from woodchips”, “hydrogen fuels”, “wind farm”, “gas to liquids” and “coal gasification”, deliberately diverting attention from the vast majority of Shell’s business in normal fossil fuel production, with only one token Shell wind farm currently in operation [5]. Relationships with companies like these are immoral and only serve to maintain the social licence which these companies require to operate unimpeded from scrutiny.

A danger to democracy

All the while, fossil fuel companies continue to lobby for watered-down regulation, deception and inaction on the climate change issue, much as the tobacco industry did when the adverse health effects of smoking became apparent [6]. According to an Oxfam report last week the fossil fuel industry spent $213 million lobbying US and EU decision makers last year whilst governments globally continue to prop up this tired industry with $1.9 trillion in subsidies [3]. “Climate denying” think tanks exist to further spread confusion funded by the fossil fuel industry and hedge funds which have a serious financial interest in the continued exploitation of fossil fuels. Billionaire oil tycoons the Koch Brothers (who own an oil company which is the second largest private company in America) have spent $67 million on hundreds of climate-denying front groups and think tanks that exist to create the perception of debate on the issue in the public sphere while expert climate scientists are unified in their call for more action to prevent disaster [7]. Perhaps the most prominent such think tank in the UK is the Global Warming Policy Foundation set up to combat the “extremely damaging and harmful policies” of the government in tackling climate change[8], a group which leading NASA climate scientist James Hansen describes as “one link in a devious manipulation of public opinion [regarding climate change]” [9].

The carbon bubble – a risky investment

We now know that at least two-thirds of fossil fuel companies’ known reserves will have to remain underground if the world is to meet existing internationally agreed targets, such as avoiding the threshold of 2°C for “dangerous” climate change – yet they continue to investigate new energy-intensive and uneconomic sources such as Arctic fuel and fracking. Experts warn this ‘carbon bubble’ could lead to stranded assets worth trillions and plunge the world into another financial crisis if left unaddressed [10]. The University of Manchester in 2012 had over 1.7 million shares in fossil fuel companies including 738,166 in BP PLC alone [11]. Between June and October this year BP’s shares have fallen by more than 18% [12]. To give you an idea, if the University still has around 700,000 shares in BP then the University endowment has lost over £650,000 in value in the last three months, equivalent to 73 students’ tuition fees gone. These are incredibly volatile investments and it is fundamentally irresponsible for the University to invest in BP and other fossil fuel companies for economic reasons.

What can we do?

So these companies are profiting from inaction on climate change, poisoning the planet and local communities to protect their profits, manipulating governments and democracy in order to maintain the completely unsustainable status quo and are also a really volatile investment. Seems like a pretty bad idea giving these people our money, so what are we going to do to stop this?

Around the UK through endowments and other investment higher education institutions have £5.2 billion tied up in the fossil fuel industry [13]. Targeting this and other ties with the industry is a great way to remove the power and influence that fossil fuel companies have in society. There are strong and pervasive links between The University of Manchester and the fossil fuel industry, all designed to legitimise their activity.

For example, in 2012 BP announced it was opening a £64 million research centre at The University of Manchester to “help its search for oil into deeper and more challenging environments”; despite existing reserves being more than enough to destroy the planet [14]. Manchester’s website says “BP’s alliance with The University of Manchester … enables BP to access the University’s world-class executive education, high-quality research facilities and its undergraduate talent pool” [15] and it has trained 600 BP staff at Manchester’s “BP Projects and Engineering College” [16]. For anyone who has ever been to one of our Careers fairs and seen their stand or looked on any notice board in our Engineering & Physical Science faculty and seen their ever-present graduate recruitment posters, the institutional ties with BP are clear. The University of Manchester also has BP’s chief scientist on its Board of Governors, the group which will have the final say over whether to divest or not [17]. Well played BP.

Shell and BP both sponsored Manchester’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences postgraduate conference in 2012. Just £1000 from Shell and £500 from BP [18] ensured that every participant of the conference got a BP-branded goody bag with a Shell-branded screwdriver inside along with other conference merchandise.

With an endowment value of £154 million [19] (the UK’s 4th largest), despite Manchester having an ethical investment policy, according to the 2013 Green League it has not taken any divestment actions in line with this policy [20]. This policy specifically 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” [21].

 

We are campaigning for the University to uphold this policy and pledge to:

  1. Move UoM’s money

– immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies

– screen for and exclude the fossil fuel industry from the UoM investment portfolio

– divest from the fossil fuel industry and shift funds to lower risk, ethical investments within 5 years

  1. Stop the greenwash

– publish full details of the UoM’s financial and other ties to the fossil fuel industry

– stop giving out honorary degrees to fossil fuel industry CEOs

– stop accepting sponsorship and advertising from fossil fuel companies

  1. Support a clean energy future for all

– provide students with ethical careers advice and opportunities

– refocus research & expertise on climate solutions and phase out climate-damaging fossil fuel research

– demand more research funding for renewables from fossil fuel companies and government

 

We are calling for immediate action to reduce links with the industry and an end to further research contracts once existing agreements are finished. We’re not calling for anything radical, just for the necessary transition away from fossil fuels to begin as soon as possible. It’s time for The University of Manchester to realise how incompatible fossil fuel investments are with a safe and sustainable future for the planet, it’s time to take meaningful action and to go Fossil Free. We will be using this blog and our Facebook page to update you on the campaign as it happens, we’ve got plenty in the pipeline… (b’dum tsch). If you’re already convinced it’s time for them to divest then sign our petition below.

Petition: bit.ly/fossilfreemcr

Page: facebook.com/fossilfreemcr


[1] Dara International, “Climate Vulnerability Monitor”, 2012.

http://daraint.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/CVM2ndEd-FrontMatter.pdf

[2] Friends of the Earth, “Extreme weather events & climate change”, September 2013.

http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/extreme_weather_cc.pdf

[3] Oxfam, “Food, fossils and filthy finance”, 17 October 2014.

http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp191-fossil-fuels-finance-climate-change-171014-summ-en.pdf

[4] Friends of the Earth, “Gas Flaring in Nigeria: a human rights, environmental and economic monstrosity”, June 2005.

http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/gas_flaring_nigeria.pdf

[5] George Monbiot, “Shell’s game: why good people do bad things”, 6th January 2009.

http://www.monbiot.com/2009/01/06/shells-game/

[6] Global Policy website, “Global warming & the energy corporations”, 12th July 1996.

https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/212/45478.html

[7] Greenpeace USA, “Koch Industries: secretly funding the climate denial machine”.

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/polluterwatch/koch-industries/

[8] BBC News, “Ed Miliband clashes with Lord Lawson on global warming”, 6th December 2009.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8398103.stm

[9] The Guardian, “Michael Hintze revealed as funder of Lord Lawson’s climate thinktank”, 27th March 2012.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/mar/27/tory-donor-climate-sceptic-thinktank

[10] The Guardian, “Climate bubble will plunge the world into another financial crisis”, 19th April 2013.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/apr/19/carbon-bubble-financial-crash-crisis

[11] The Mancunion, “Greens deputy leader calls University’s investment in ‘big oil’ “completely irresponsible”.“ 5th March 2012.

http://mancunion.com/2012/03/05/greens-deputy-leader-calls-manchester-universitys-investment-in-big-oil-completely-irresponsible/

[12] BP share charts, calculation made between 24th June and 17th October 2014.

http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/investors/investor-tools/share-charts.html

[13] People & Planet, “Knowledge and power: fossil fuel universities”, October 2013.

http://peopleandplanet.org/dl/fossil-free/knowledge-power-report.pdf

[14] The Daily Telegraph, “BP Invests in UK research to help it drill deeper”, 7th August 2012.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/9457340/BP-invests-in-UK-research-to-help-it-drill-deeper.html

[15] The University of Manchester, “Manchester Energy Global Partnerships” website.

http://www.energy.manchester.ac.uk/globalpartnerships/

[16] The University of Manchester, “Business Engagement Case Study: BP”.

http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=15003

[17] Dr Angela Strank, Board of Governors, University of Manchester website.

http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/governance/structure/board-governors/members/angela-strank/

[18] Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Conference Fund 2012 Final Review Report.

http://www.researchsupport.eps.manchester.ac.uk/documents/funding/RCF_Reports/EAES_PGRC_2012.pdf

[19] The University of Manchester, ‘Financial Statements for Year Ended 31 July 2011’.

http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/DocuInfo.aspx?DocID=12021

[20] People & Planet, ‘Green League 2013’ website.

http://peopleandplanet.org/green-league-2013/tables

[21] The University of Manchester, ‘Policy for Socially Responsible Investment’

http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=659