Students and residents unite in fossil fuel divestment rally

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Students and residents from across Oxford have today joined in a fossil fuel divestment rally, marching from Radcliffe Square to Bonn Square.

The initiative, spearheaded by campaigns Oxford University Fossil Free and the Fossil Free Oxfordshire Divestment Campaign, seeks to raise awareness about the importance of fossil fuel divestment as consultations with the University come to a close.

It brings together the work of a number of organisations including the OUSU Environment and Ethics campaign and the student-led organisation People & Planet, calling for full divestment from fossil fuels, as well as a full list of the University’s investments, which is currently unavailable.

The rally finished at Bonn Square, where a speech was made by Dr Brenda Boardman, co-director of the UK Energy Research Centre.

Cherwell spoke to Ellen Gibson, a St Hilda’s student who organised the rally. She said, “I think one of the most important aspects of divestment is the opportunity it provides for reinvestment, particularly in things such as clean energy, which could benefit so much for that kind of investment, and renewable sources. Currently, what’s holding them back from that being our source of energy isn’t their ability to provide power – it’s been proven that they can provide our power and that they can be a great source of energy for us – the problem is that there isn’t that investment and there isn’t that power to lobby governments to tell them that this is the kind of energy that we want to see.

She added, “The biggest thing that’s been happening recently is that the university opened a consultation about fossil fuel divestment which is due to close at the end of this term, so currently we’re building up a lot of momentum towards the end of that to send a real message of strength to the university before that consultation closes, so this isn’t really the last that you’re going to see of us over the next few weeks – there’ll be a lot more actions going on, so I feel like we’re building a lot of momentum.”

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Michaela Collord, who co-organised the rally, told Cherwell, “The demo is something that’s important in an of itself, because it’s a way of showing that this is something people care about, and it’s also a way of telling the University, and also the city council, because we’re partnering with the Oxfordshire Fossil Fuel campaign, that this matters and that they, as prestigious institutions, can take this voice and make it that much louder.”

The University is currently involved in consultations with OUSU over divestment, while 19 JCRs and MCRs across the University have expressed support for fossil fuel divestment.

A university spokesman said in a statement, “Oxford University Student Union has asked the University to divest its endowment from holdings in companies involved in exploration for, or exploitation of, fossil fuels.

“In order to provide a fully considered response, a consultation has been launched to seek evidence and opinion from across the collegiate University. The University’s Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee will collect views and make a recommendation to the University Council in the autumn on what response to make to OUSU’s representation.”