Univ JCR criticises Oxford’s oil and gas investment

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Univ JCR have passed a motion condemning Oxford University’s association with oil and gas companies and have encouraged the College’s Governing Body to divest from all fossil fuel investments.

The motion, proposed by Alex Morley, slammed fossil fuels investments as “socially irresponsible and inconsistent with the educational objectives of the University”.

The motion stated, “The actions of companies that search for new fossil fuel reserves is unethical”. It cited an Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that claimed “in order to stay below a one-third probability of a devastating global temperature rise of 2°C, cumulative carbon emissions cannot exceed a “budget” of about 800 gigatons”.

Morley pointed to statics showing that UK universities invest, on average, £2,000 per student in fossil fuels based assets.

The motion argued, “divestment is an effective means of protest against unethical corporate behaviour.”

Univ’s motion comes as part of a recent spate of JCR activity against fossil fuels investment. The campaign is being spearheaded by James Rainey, the OUSU Environment and Ethics Chair.

Rainey commented: “OUSU began working on fossil fuel divestment through the Environment and Ethics campaign at the start of Michaelmas 2013. Since then our template divestment motion has been fully passed in 11 common rooms (sometimes unanimously).”

The colleges that have passed motions include Balliol, St Anne’s, Hertford, St Hilda’s, St Peter’s, Linacre, Nuffield, Wadham and Univ. However, the template OUSU E&E Divestment motion was defeated at St Catz.

Rainey said “Our ultimate aim is to have the University and Colleges stop funding dangerous climate change by withdrawing or not reinvesting their endowments in fossil fuel companies.”

He added “This would send a strong signal to those in power that action is urgently needed to avoid exceeding the recommended carbon budget, and could have a disproportionate impact on public opinion due to press coverage and the moral status afforded to universities.”

OUSU further described the University as violating its “duty of care towards its students” by funding “dangerous climate change”.

On Saturday, the Green Party and Oxford environmentalists marched past Univ’s doors in demonstration on behalf of Green Oxford councillors.

The divestment campaign has become the main focus of the Environment & Ethics campaign, having started as an 800-signatory petition in Hilary last year. The movement has enjoyed success both at other universities and internationally, having started in the USA.

A report published last year by the University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment recognised the growing importance of the divestment campaign, comparing it to efforts against tobacco usage and South African apartheid.