A Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that Cardiff University continues to hold over £2 million in investments in the fossil fuel industry despite continued student protests.
Last year, the environmental society People and Planet showed that the University was investing £2,504,881 in nine corporations in the oil and gas industries.
The FOI released by the University shows that now this figure has fallen by £459,030 to £2,045,851, a drop of almost one fifth, emphasising the University’s apparent commitment to disinvesting from fossil fuels.
However, a Cardiff University spokesperson has stated that although the University is “committed to sustainability at the highest level”, it is unlikely that it will completely divest from fossil fuels.
They said: “We recognise that this is a complex issue but do not consider that University disinvestment from the fossil fuel industry is the solution.”
The news comes despite a Student Senate motion that was passed last November lobbying the University to divest. The motion also specified that the Students’ Union should request quarterly updates of the University’s investment folio and lobby for student representation on University investment committees.
In light of the figures released, a protest staged by People and Planet last Thursday has shown that students are still committed to lobbying the University to stop the investments. Named the ‘oil spill’, the event saw members of the society lie on the ground outside the Students’ Union and get covered in oil to encourage students to sign their petition.
The petition calls for the University to “screen for and exclude the fossil fuel industry from their investment portfolio” and “immediately freeze any new investments.” Instead, it was suggested that funds be transferred to lower risk, ethical investments” within five years.
During the protest, the petition gained approximately 150 signatures.
In addition to the ‘oil spill’, People and Planet will continue to lobby the University to stop its investments. This will include coinciding events with the upcoming COP21 talks, which will be held in Paris in December. According to Sean Langdon-Dark, the President of Cardiff’s People and Planet society, the University should also make effort to support COP21 to “do its part in helping lower global carbon emissions.”
A spokesperson for People and Planet emphasised the need to protest by stating that: “Cardiff University invests £2 million in the fossil fuel industry while claiming to be a sustainable university.
People and Planet treasurer Jack Pickering said: ”Fossil Fuel corporations have a long history of funding climate change denial and fighting sustainable energy as well as committing human rights abuses. We think that in the run up to COP21, it’s time to take them on directly and challenge their legitimacy”
Langdon-Dark also stated that the event was created to “raise awareness of the investments” and the on-going campaign.
He said: “We’re running this campaign for the divestment of £2 million, so that the University can send a political, and in many ways ethical, message to the corporations in the fossil fuel industry which it currently has financial ties to.
“We hope that Cardiff University will recognise the legitimacy of our campaign, and join the international divestment movement.”
Talking to Gair Rhydd, VP Welfare Kate Delaney stated that the Students’ Union will be working with both the Ethical and Environmental Officer and People and Planet to make sure that their aims are achieved. However, although Delaney acknowledged that the amount of money invested in fossil fuels has decreased, “no discussions have taken place so far on why there’s been a chance with the University”.
It was also confirmed that the Students’ Union President and Vice President Education both sit on the Policy & Resources Committee of the University that deals with investments.
The nine companies involved in the fossil fuels industries that Cardiff University has an investment in are: Tullow Oil (£9,344), BG Group (£301,530), British Petroleum (£355,905), Royal Dutch Shell (£331,225), Wood Group (£72,971), BHP Billiton (£250,099), Rio Tinto (£228,509), Chevron (£266,489) and Total S.A. (£229,779).
Defending these investments, a University spokesperson said: “Cardiff University has robust systems in place to ensure that any investments are appropriate and advance our purpose to be a world-leading university.
“Like most world-leading universities, Cardiff University collaborates with a number of public and private sector companies on a wide leading researching projects, including in the fossil fuel industry.”