We spoke to members of the Oxford Climate Justice Campaign about their campaign for the University to cut ties with the fossil fuel sector and how their activism has continued throughout the pandemic.
What is OCJC and why is it important?
Oxford Climate Justice Campaign is a student-led activist group focused on cutting ties between the University and fossil fuel sector, and acting in solidarity with the frontline communities most affected by climate change. We go about this by a mixture of lobbying, protesting and peaceful direct actions, and work together with other intersectional student campaigns from time to time. Apart from direct action, we focus on education and discussion about the most pressing issues relating to climate change and social justice. Our achievements include the divestment campaign, which saw the University pledge to divest its endowment from fossil fuels this year; we continue to campaign for fossil fuel divestment in the individual colleges of the University.
These are our demands:
1. All remaining Oxford Colleges divest from fossil fuels.
2. Oxford University and all Colleges commit to no longer take sponsorships, grants or donations from fossil fuel companies.
3. The University and all Colleges end all research being carried out for fossil fuel companies. 4. Oxford Careers Service stops advertising jobs and internships with fossil fuel companies and stops all partnerships with fossil fuel companies.
5. Oxford University publicly recognises the environmental and human rights abuses carried out by fossil fuel companies.
What is climate justice?
Climate justice is a framework for looking at the climate crisis that focuses on the injustices caused by climate change and fossil fuel extraction, and demands solutions to the crisis that put the needs and human rights of marginalised communities first. It focuses on the fact that those least responsible for the crisis will be (and are) most affected by it, and brings to light neo-colonial power structures (for example, violations of indigenous rights involved in oil extraction), while challenging greenwashing that lets oil companies off the hook or blames the global poor for their own oppression.
Why did your campaign start?
OCJC started with the aim for divestment of the University’s endowment from fossil fuels about a decade ago. Since then, we have expanded our aims to raising awareness about climate justice in all areas of University policy.
What are your meetings like? How would a normal week during term look for a student involved?
We have weekly meetings on Wednesday evenings 6-7pm via Google Meets, where we discuss actions for the week and term. OCJC is democratic, non-hierarchical, and dynamic; and are LGBTQ+ affirming, egalitarian, anti-racist and intersectional (that is, we think the liberation of different marginalised groups are mutually bound together). Anyone and everyone can speak in our meetings, our notetaker and facilitator changes every week and anyone can volunteer, but no one has to speak if they don’t want to. We operate on consensus, which means we won’t decide on anything major without making sure that the whole group is happy with it. Any level of
Commitment is fine; no one should feel under any obligation to do more than they want to or feel that they’re comfortable taking on.
For someone fairly involved, an average week outside of the meeting might include doing some social media posting, collaborating on writing some text (for example, writing the report, an open letter, a motion, or a press release), and keeping in touch on Slack (the free messaging platform where we communicate) about any decisions.
How has OCJC responded to the pandemic? What sort of events have you been holding in the past few terms?
We have been having our weekly meetings on Google meets instead of in-person. In response to everything being online, we have still managed to carry out some direct actions. We organised email campaigns concerning the Careers Service’s inclusion of fossil fuel companies Schlumberger, BP and Equinor at careers fairs, and co-wrote an open letter to the VC about this with Disarm Oxford. Over the last year, we have written press releases and published articles in student newspapers, and have passed motions in JCRs and MCRs. Currently, we are writing a report on the University’s ties with the fossil fuel industry, which we hope to publicise through national media.
What is the most rewarding part of being involved in OCJC?
Anna: ‘For me, it would have to be the feeling of being involved in a fight about something bigger than myself, something that has the potential to help people all over the world and make the world a better place!’
Brigitte: ‘By being a part of OCJC, I feel like I am involved in a small way in bringing justice to the people suffering the worst effects of climate change, a problem we as a country and Institution have helped exacerbate. It is extremely rewarding to see the victories brought by OCJC, such as the partial divestment of Oxford University’s endowment last year!’
Rhiannon: ‘For me, the fact that I only joined OCJC this year as a fresher but have already had the chance to get involved with some real, impactful projects that will influence the university for years to come is really exciting.’
What is coming up next? Any future events planned?
Although the central university is now divesting from fossil fuels, there are still many colleges with investments in them, and those are far from the only links. We want the University and colleges to immediately cut all ties with the sector, including accepting funding/donations, advertising jobs in fossil fuel companies, or doing research for them – among other things. We are currently writing a report on the University’s ties with the fossil fuel industry, financial and
otherwise. We hope that publishing this report will bring awareness about Oxford’s role in climate justice and that the University will sever its ties as soon as possible.
What is the best way that students can get involved?