To: Sir Nicholas Montagu, Chairman of QMUL Council

Divest QMUL from fossil fuels

Divest QMUL from fossil fuels

1) Increase transparency:

• Update the Ethical Investment Policy and ensure that all investments are transparent, accountable and in-line with the University’s other ethical and environmental standards.
• Publish full details of Queen Mary’s connections to the fossil fuel industry (including sponsorships and advertising), with company names and specific quantities invested.

2) Divest wholly from fossil fuels:

• Screen for and exclude the fossil fuel industry from Queen Mary’s investment portfolio, both direct and indirect (via banks and pooled funds).
• Immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies.
• Remove investments from companies engaged in the fossil fuel industry within 5 years, and explicitly commit to excluding these types of investments in the future.
• Terminate existing agreements and contracts of sponsorships and advertising with any link to the fossil fuel industry.

3) Invest in the future:

• Actively commit to investing in low-carbon assets and renewable energy.
• Refocus research and expertise on climate solutions and phase out all climate-damaging research.
• Provide QMUL students with ethical careers advice and opportunities.

Why is this important?

Climate change is happening and it is harmful; very few people deny this nowadays. So why is it okay for QMUL and other universities and organisations, which are supposed to be setting an example to the younger generation, to profit from this damage? Too many UK universities support the fossil fuel industry directly through their research, their endowments and investments and their partnerships with some of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world like BP and Shell.

For this reason, UK students have decided to take on the fossil fuel industry by getting our universities to go Fossil Free. People & Planet is joining forces with the 350.org campaign that has been sweeping across North American campuses. By divesting, QMUL will join many universities, religious institutions and local governments across the world that have already committed. Only with a combined effort can we make a substantial dent in the financial support that fossil fuel companies require to survive.

The response of QMUL to a Freedom of Information Act request last year proved that the university does have investments in fossil fuels. However, the university refused to specify how much money and in which companies. However, the response did inform us that a meeting took place last June to discuss the possibilities of divesting from fossil fuels. The decision was made to maintain current investments but now we known they have been considering it and they can't go back. Now we need to turn up the pressure and show them we mean business!

Human health at risk

As seen in the QMUL Ethical Investment Policy, Queen Mary is already committed to avoiding direct investment in any company whose business activity is tobacco products, reasoning that the College seeks to promote good health through its School of Medicine and Dentistry. [1] This reasoning can also be applied to fossil fuel divestment because, as the 2015 Lancet Commission reads, climate change is “the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century”. [2] According to the World Health Organisation, from the years 2030 to 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year by affecting determinants of health such as clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. [3] It is entirely conflicting to simultaneously promote good health through the medical school and invest in companies that damage the health of the world. The British Medical Journal has appealed to health institutions to divest and early victories from the British Medical Association, the University of Glasgow and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine show that what we ask is easily achievable and health institutions should stick together and set an example to the world. The guiding principle of ‘do no harm’ should be applied to the full range of activities that Barts and the London and QMUL are involved in.

Finances at risk

The ethical investment policy also states that “taking ethical and environmental considerations into account in an investment decision will enhance the returns available in the long term”. [1] it is now apparent that investments in fossil fuel companies are not sustainable. The share prices of coal, gas and oil companies depend on the value of known carbon reserves. Considering that countries have agreed to limit global warming to 2°C, 80% of known carbon reserves will have to remain in the ground; [4] “the majority of the world’s reserves are unburnable” says Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England. Fossil fuel assets pose a serious vulnerability to the stability of the financial system in the carbon-constrained world of the future. QMUL is therefore exposing itself to major financial risk by continuing to invest the school’s endowments in fossil fuels.

The Environmental Policy of QMUL says “the College is committed to the principles and practices of environmental protection and environmental sustainability across all areas of activity, with College-wide involvement and responsibility”. [5] It is apparent that many official policies of QMUL would converge on a commitment to divest from fossil fuels yet so far no such action has been taken.

From Canada’s dirty tar sands to Arctic drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) for shale gas - the fossil fuel industry is scraping the bottom of the barrel and causing huge environmental and human devastation in the process. Withdrawing our institutions’ financial and moral backing for this climate-wrecking industry is crucial to tackling climate change.

References:
[1] http://www.arcs.qmul.ac.uk/docs/policyzone/118943.pdf
[2] http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)60854-6/abstract
[3] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs266/en/
[4] http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/abs/517150a.html
[5] http://www.qmul.ac.uk/about/sustainability/Documents/80817.pdf

How it will be delivered

Via email to Sir Nicholas Montagu and the other Council members

Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London, United Kingdom

Updates

2016-04-17 15:26:35 -0400

500 signatures reached

2016-04-06 15:19:44 -0400

Very exciting news: the Senior Executives at QM are recommending divestment to the Finance and Investment Committee (FIC), which will be meeting on 19th April. The decision on whether or not to divest will have to go through the FIC and the Council. We need all the support we can get now to make sure they vote yes to divest. Your help is greatly appreciated and because of you we are sure that QM will divest!

2016-03-18 10:49:31 -0400

100 signatures reached

2016-02-16 13:11:59 -0500

50 signatures reached

2016-02-12 09:41:29 -0500

25 signatures reached

2016-02-12 07:46:04 -0500

10 signatures reached