Divestment: The removal of stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.
People and Planet is currently running the Durham Divest campaign. Why? Durham University currently has £1.5 million invested in fossil fuel companies. Global temperatures are rising, and will soon surpass the 2°C level, which equates to catastrophic climate change. In order to prevent this, we need to keep 80% of our known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Fossil fuel companies are largely ignoring this target.
We, as a progressive, forward thinking university body, need to help stop this from happening. Desmond Tutu – no less – has said that “people of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.” By divesting we are breaking our ties with the industry, proving that we do not think what they are doing is morally acceptable.
This is a global movement – with more than 220 institutions divesting in one form or another. In the UK, this includes universities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oxford, Warwick and Sheffield. By following the trend, we can really make a difference. Like Durham, these universities have fossil-fuel-sponsored courses (Warwick, for example,has the BP Archive on campus as well as multi million pound research projects with BP and Shell) which have been untouched following the divestment movement. A 2013 study by the Aperio Group said economic risks of divesting from fossil fuel companies in the Russell 3000 Index are ‘statistically irrelevant’. Similarly for Durham, there won’t be any financial hardship for the university as a result of divesting. This really is a no-brainer for the university.