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To: University of York Council

Our Vision: A Fossil Free Future for the University of York

Our Vision: A Fossil Free Future for the University of York

We, the undersigned, acknowledge the ethical and sustainability efforts made this far by the University of York and call on the University to divest entirely from the fossil fuel energy and extraction industries.

Specifically, we call on the University to:

• Immediately stop making new investments in the industries, either direct or indirect.
• Reduce the University’s existing holdings in the fossil fuel energy and extraction industries, both direct and indirect, over a period of five years.
• Invest in a more ethical bank, in line with the above.
• Produce a public statement outlining the steps the University is taking towards the above.
• Make the University’s investment portfolio more accessible and transparent.
• Continue to focus current and future research away from fossil fuel research and towards alternatives.

Additionally, we call upon the University to reduce and eventually eliminate our dependence on fossil fuel energy throughout the University within 5 years.

Why is this important?

Fossil fuels have long been shown to have a profound negative impact on the environment, and have increasingly received negative press on the subject. The release of carbon dioxide when fossil fuels are burnt contributes to global warming and climate change. There is an alarming difference in the amount of CO2 generation allowed by current legislation and the total cumulative limit necessary to keep the global temperature below the critical 2°C rise (Allen et al., 2013).

CO2 emissions also contribute to other environmental degradation such as acid rain, ocean acidification and consequently coral reef bleaching and destruction. Fossil fuel extraction devastates the planet, human society and ecological systems not only through CO2 release, but also through destructive processes such as mountaintop removal mining, offshore oil drilling and fracking.

The University of York has strong links with environmental responsibility. It is one of only two UK bases for the Stockholm Environment Institute, and hosts an active and growing Environment Department.

One of the University's key policies is to "minimise environmental impacts and...enhance the environment". A particularly powerful way to do this is to sever our ties with fossil fuels completely. Not only will this help us achieve our goal of reducing our carbon footprint and developing sustainably, as one of the major educational institutions in the country, it will encourage others to follow in our footsteps.

Additionally, the University’s ethical investment policy states that “[t]he University will not knowingly invest in companies whose activities include practices which directly pose a risk of serious harm to individuals or groups, or whose activities are inconsistent with the mission and values of the University.” The release of greenhouse gases such as CO2, which contribute to climate change, surely falls into this category. While the University of York’s direct investments may meet this requirement, the lack of transparency and prevalent use of outside funds and investments makes the University’s actual investments difficult to discover.

Something as seemingly innocuous as the University’s choice of bank can have major implications on its ethical profile ( HSBC states in their energy policy that they “will continue to work with fossil fuel-based customers” (HSBC, 2011, Energy Sector Policy). It is this kind of indirect funding that we call upon the University to move away from.

The amount of fossil fuel available to us is finite, and we are turning to increasingly destructive methods to mine it, while the scientific community is warning us of the dangers of continued use.

Would it not be better to move away from this dirty, dangerous fuel before, and not after, it is too late? The UK's universities should lead the way by moving away from fossil fuels. If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. Investing in renewable alternatives will pave the way for a cleaner, more sustainable future.

University of York, Heslington, United Kingdom

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2015-05-26 14:44:19 -0400

50 signatures reached

2014-02-19 13:23:47 -0500

25 signatures reached

2014-02-11 15:10:08 -0500

10 signatures reached