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

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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