Students vow to continue occupation over fossil fuels

Students hold a sit-in protest at Charles Stewart House. Picture: Scott Taylor
Students hold a sit-in protest at Charles Stewart House. Picture: Scott Taylor
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Defiant students have pledged to continue a campus occupation until Edinburgh University reverses its decision to invest in fossil fuels.

The sit-in protest, which began yesterday, was sparked by the university court’s decision on Tuesday to continue investing in climate-polluting industries.

Branding the stance “reckless and irresponsible”, campaigners claim they will stay put in Charles Stewart House in Chambers Street until their demands are met and the institution agrees to “stop funding climate change”.

The protest follows a three-year campaign led by the university’s People and Planet student group which has been calling for the institution to divest from the 200 fossil fuel companies that hold most of the world’s oil, coal and gas reserves.

Kirsty Haigh, student campaigner with the group and NUS Scotland vice-president (communities), said: “The fact that our university has chosen to continue funding environmental degradation and human suffering shows that it cares far more about profit than our futures.

“Saying there may be divestment in the future from certain companies if they fail to meet criteria around their carbon emissions is no real commitment and shows the university is refusing to acknowledge 
its role in devastating 
climate change.”

Eleanor Dow, student campaigner with the People and Planet group, said: “For years the university has been engaging with companies. It hasn’t worked so far so it’s ignorant, or at best naive, to suggest this time it will.”

In a statement, the university said it fully supported the right of all students to protest lawfully and peacefully.

It added: “The student body has been represented throughout Edinburgh’s fossil fuels investment policy discussions.

“Following a request from our students’ association, the university set up a fossil fuels review group to consider the case for divestment of university assets from fossil fuel companies. The university will use its research activities and responsible investment to work with companies to reduce their emissions.

“Through its commitment to responsible investment, the university will seek to change the behaviour of the companies in which it invests – in the fossil fuels sector and other sectors – by requiring them to report on their emissions and by benchmarking them. The university will focus specifically on companies involved in the extraction of the highest carbon-emitting fossil fuels – coal and tar sands.

“We will divest from these companies if realistic alternative sources of energy are available and the companies involved are not investing in technologies that help address the effects of carbon emissions and climate change.

“Through its research activity and its teaching, the university will continue to explore alternative sources of renewable energy and develop low-carbon technologies.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com