To: Finance Director Keith Willet
Please sign this petition to call on Birkbeck to stand for climate justice and divest from fossil fuels.
Birkbeck, University of London, is estimated by People & Planet to have approximately £220,000 invested in fossil fuel companies. However, without greater transparency and disclosure from the College, we cannot be sure of the full extent of the College's investments in fossil fuels.
Investing in and profiting from the activities which drive climate change is unethical, unsafe, and illogical. It goes against the University's highly regarded reputation, impressive achievements in sustainability - including Bloomsbury Green Thing - its commitment to achieving best practice evident in its environmental policies, and its teaching about the impact of climate change.
We, the undersigned, call on Birkbeck University of London to take the following actions:
1. 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 by 2023, coinciding with Birkbeck's 200th anniversary.
2. Create an ethical investment policy containing a fossil free divestment clause to govern the management of all its funds.
3. Become a public advocate of divestment, making an immediate statement through its online channels and to the Student’s Union.
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 with due regard to climate justice and a 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 release 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 5°C by 2100. This would have a catastrophic impact on human life. It would mean that our planet bears little resemblance to the one in 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 investments in 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, but it also 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 runs contrary to the University’s environmental priorities. The University is pledging to reduce carbon emissions and embed sustainability into its business model and institutions' culture. It intends to be fully compliant with environmental legislation and promote environmental responsibility. On this basis and in light of the Paris agreement, we believe that we must act to help avert irreversible damage to ecosystems and life on earth. Fossil fuel companies are now subject to regulations aimed at preventing climate change. Recent research has shown that, if regulators are serious about mitigating climate change, a third of global oil reserves, half of all gas reserves, and over 80% of coal reserves will have to remain in the ground 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, which include over 50% of all UK universities (https://sustainability.nus.org.uk/divest-investold/articles/over-50-of-uk-universities-divest-from-fossil-fuels), including Goldsmiths, Bath Spa University, Manchester University, Oxford City Council, Trinity College, 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 the divestment campaign at Birkbeck, and an end to social and environmental devastation.
NOTE: This petition was updated on 25 February 2021 to reflect the latest available investment figures disclosed by Birkbeck in January 2021.