Dear Professor Colin Riordan, President and Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University
We write to you because we are witnessing the increasing impacts of climate change and the disasters it brings at an ever increasing rate. In 2015, the UK experienced record-breaking heat waves and floods which affected hundreds of thousands of people. Storm Desmond and Eva alone cost our country approximately £1.5bn.
The burning of fossil fuels is proven to intensify climate change. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming – experts agree that we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet for thousands of years. Cardiff University states it wishes to minimise its “environmental impact at all levels of operation and be an exemplar of best practice”. This principle reveals itself in the University’s extensive and outstanding research in many areas of sustainability. However, holding investments of £330,000 in fossil fuel companies as Shell, which spent £18m in 2015 alone lobbying against climate policies, goes against the institution’s sustainability goals.
Many fossil-fuel companies violate human rights. Companies such as BP and Rio Tinto have been accused of exploiting indigenous communities whilst increasing poverty and ill-health on the front-line of fossil fuel extraction. When oil drilling activities in the most vulnerable countries lead to outbreaks of social chaos, inequality and violence, developed countries, their companies and facilitators bear direct responsibility for those catastrophic consequences. The University prides itself on its work around equality and diversity. They achieve this through various schemes, such as the recently renewed fair trade accreditation, showing the commitment to prevent this sort of violations. We believe that the ethical standard that Cardiff University holds itself to, mandates a social responsibility to divest from such industries.
Climate change and thus fossil fuels are not profitable in the long run. After the Paris agreement in 2015, analysts of Barclays anticipated that it will “help boost the long-term fundamentals of the capital-goods and low-carbon power-generation sectors while weakening the long-term fundamentals of fossil-fuel industries”. Goldman Sachs also predicted a boost of the world’s low carbon-emissions economy. In accordance with this prediction, European countries’ investment in clean energy rose by 3% in 2016, with the UK leading for the third successive year. Off-shore wind technology on its own received capital spending commitments of $30bn, an increase of 40% compared to 2015. This increasing demand assures us that it is not only in Cardiff University’s ethical but also its financial interests to shift investments to renewable energy companies such as Vestas Wind Systems, Tesla and many others.
Public pressure on Cardiff University to confront climate change is rising. One quarter of UK universities have committed to divest from fossil fuels, among others the University of Sheffield, Glasgow University and most recently the University of Bristol. For the good of our students, our university and our nation, and for future generations worldwide, we call upon you to join this growing movement. We call on Cardiff University to:
– Prevent any new investment in fossil fuel companies.
– Divest fully from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds within five years.
– Make commitments to increase investment in renewable energy suppliers.
– Conduct a comprehensive analysis of other investments or connections to fossil fuels companies, for example the pension funds, research grants and relations with fossil fuel company CEOs.
The implementation of these measures will not only be a responsible decision for our institution’s financial portfolio but also for the wellbeing of its current and future graduating classes who deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future not defined by climate chaos.
Sean Langdon-Dark James Daly
President of People & Planet Ethical and Environmental Officer
Cardiff University Students’ Union
Secretary of People & Planet
People & Planet Society Cardiff University