100 signatures reached
To: Finance Director Keith Willet
Birkbeck University of London holds investments in a number of fossil fuel companies including Centrica, Eversource Energy and Shell. That's approximately £1, 106, 237 which means nearly a third of Birkbeck's entire endowment fund is invested in companies that are unequivocally driving climate change.
Investing in and profiting from the activities which drive climate change is unethical, unsafe, and illogical when set against the university’s highly regarded reputation, impressive achievements in sustainability including Bloomsbury Green Thing, and its committment to achieving best practice evident in its environment policies.
We the undersigned call on Birkbeck University of London to take the following actions:
1. Become a public advocate of divestment, making an immediate statement through its online channels and to the Student’s Union, arising from the need to leave the majority of fossil fuel assets unexploited.
2. Commit to changing how its funds are invested and managed, including freezing any new investment and withdrawing the university’s holdings in the fossil fuel industry over five years.
3. Create an ethical investment policy containing a fossil free divestment clause to govern the management of all its funds.
4. Disclose publicly all financial ties, contracts and agreements with the fossil fuel industry such as investments, sponsorship and advertising agreements.
5. Commit to reinvesting in socially and environmentally positive alternatives to fossil fuels such as renewable energy companies with due regard to Just Transition.
6. Demand more research funding for renewables from government.
Why is this important?
Investment in fossil fuel industries drives fossil fuel consumption and its negative social and environmental impacts. Burning coal, oil, and gas releases CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, both warming and polluting the planet.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if the status quo continues the planet could warm by almost 5oC by 2100. This would have a catastrophic impact on human life. It would turn our planet into one not “similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted”, as James Hansen, a top climate scientist at NASA put it.
The second reason is that investment in these companies gives implicit support to their activities. It is a matter of social justice and duty that the University withdraw its financial support for companies that actively contribute to global warming, the burden of which is being felt disproportionately by the world’s poorest countries, who are contributing least to climate change. Not only does this exacerbate global poverty it perpetuates further social inequality between the global south and the global north. Divestment from fossil fuel firms will help remove fossil fuel companies’ social license to exploit the world's most impoverished nations.
The third reason is that investment in fossil fuel companies is illogical when set against the University’s environmental priorities. The university is pledging to reduce carbon emissions and embed sustainability into their business model and culture of institutions. It intends to be fully compliant with environmental legislation and promote environmental responsibility. On this basis and in light of the Paris agreement that includes averting irreversible damage to the ecosystems, all planetary life and livelihoods.
Besides its dangers, there are strong financial arguments for divestment. As the BP oil spill illustrated, fossil fuel companies operate in risky contexts that can not only damage environments and communities, but also shareholder value. Fossil fuel companies are at the mercy of regulations aimed at preventing climate change. Recent research has shown that, if regulators are serious about preventing climate change, a third of global oil reserves, half of all gas reserves, and over 80% of coal reserves will have to remain unburned to limit global warming to 2ºC. This means fossil fuel firms would have to massively write down the value of assets on their balance sheets, leading to huge and sustained destruction in shareholder value.
By divesting from fossil fuels, the University will join a long list of respected institutions already committed to going fossil free, including Stanford University, Glasgow University, Oxford CIty Council, the World Council of Churches, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The global divestment campaign is growing, and together we can make a statement about how we want our future to look.
We urge all students, alumni, staff and members of the public to sign the petition to support an end to social and environmental devastation.