European Divestment Training, May 2014Well folks, it’s been 4 months since we highlighted 9 European divestment campaigns to look out for.  So much has happened since then that we thought it was time for an update on the status of the Fossil Free campaign across Europe.

Perhaps most important is the work that’s been going on behind the scenes to build the power and campaigning skills of the people who make up Europe’s rapidly-growing divestment movement.  In May, we brought together 30 key organisers from Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Poland, Netherlands, Germany and the UK in rural Germany for a week-long training and strategy session.  It’s these people who have made the successes below a reality.

Here’s a rundown of just a few highlights from each country:


hemskt mkt moaThe campaign has really taken off at Swedish universities including Lund, Stockholm, Uppsala, Jönköping and Gothenburg, with creative actions,  petition gathering and public debates. After the financial officer of Gothenburg University threw down a challenge to students, saying “There’s a difference between if 10 or a 1000 people think [divestment] is an important issue”, the students set out to show just how much support they had.  Within a fortnight they quickly delivered his demand for a 1000 supporters.

Meanwhile, Swedish citizens have also been demanding that institutions such as Malmö city, Gothenburg University and the Royal Institute of Technology divest from fossil fuels, whilst a high profile campaign to divest Sweden’s national insurance pension fund is gathering momentum.   To highlight their demands at a recent drinks reception held at the annual Almedalen political festival, guests were treated to a series of oily cocktails and coal nibbles by divestment activists.  They certainly put divestment on the agenda for the whole Almedalen festival, being present at panel debates and media.  During Almedalen, a fantastic divestment endorsement from Sweden’s first female Archbishop, Antje Jackelén, was caught on film.

What’s coming up next?  Expect a national gathering in August to get training in divestment campaigning, lots of summer activity around the AP pension funds (including some more carbon bubble volleyball), and some workshops in Malmö, Gothenburg and Stockholm to help strengthen the city divestment campaigns there.   Contact Olivia for more details.



Students blockage office of Universities UK demanding end to £5.2bn investments in fossil fuels

Students blockade office of Universities UK demanding divestment, July 2014

Danni, our new UK Divestment Organiser, joined the team and quickly got to work supporting our partners running the university, faith and health strands of the Fossil Free UK campaign.

There have been big successes in each strand, starting when Brighthelm became the UK’s first church to divest in May.  Then the faith campaign scored perhaps the biggest global win to date when the World Council of Churches announced it would divest.  It represents over half a billion Christians in 345 church denominations worldwide.   Faith partners Operation Noah are hopeful that the Church of England and Methodists won’t be far behind.

Student network People & Planet continues to ramp up the pressure on UK universities to divest, with campaigns now active on over 50 campuses. The battle is on to see who will be the first to clear bureaucratic hurdles and divest, with Glasgow University looking the mostly likely.  People & Planet recently held a summer training camp to prepare student activists for escalating their campaigns in the Autumn.  Meanwhile, Oxford students and over 100 senior academics made huge progress in forcing the university – which has the largest endowment in the country – to officially consult all staff and students on whether it should divest.

Last but not least, new health strand partners Medact and Healthy Planet came on board and quickly racked up a massive win for the global divestment movement when the British Medical Association voted to shift its investments from fossil fuels into renewable alternatives.

What’s coming up? There’s a busy summer and autumn ahead with a new campaign targeting the Greater London Authority gearing up to launch.  Reclaim the Power – an anti-fracking climate action camp in August – looks set to hit the headlines and lead to some creative action, whilst all strands of the campaign gear up for a UK-wide joint weekend of action on 19-21st September.


German Munster University coal waiter actionThere are now 7 divestment campaigns in Germany with 5 directed at universities and 2 targeting the pension funds of Munster and Konstanz.  Fossil fuel divestment has quickly gained profile within the German climate movement, with more and more people from the grassroots and NGO approaching Tine from Fossil Free Deutschland to work together on divestment campaigns.

In recent months, the focus has been placed heavily on building up the capacity of local Fossil Free groups and connecting them together through a series of trainings and workshops. Results are already starting to show with the group at Munster University recently staging a creative intervention to escalate their demands after they received a no from the management.  Not only did they make a great impact during an official university event, but they also learned media skills as they were interviewed for a feature in a national publication.

What’s coming up? Municipal campaigns offer great potential for challenging the coal, oil and gas investments of the German Savings Bank and its climate-funding investment arm, Dekabank. We’re also considering teaming up with new partners to launch a faith-focussed campaign so watch this space and contact Tine to get involved.



Fossil Free activists play carbon volleybubble outside coal power plant

Fossil Free activists play carbon volleybubble outside coal power plant

Last but definitely not least, the Dutch team have been busy relaunching their campaign as FossielvrijNL to great success – complete with new Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Thanks to student pressure and growing support from faculty, the Erasmus University Rotterdam became the first to formally respond to divestment demands in the Netherlands by commissioning research into their ties with the fossil fuel industry.

As well as pushing divestment up the agenda of its universities, there is a strong national Dutch team working together to get the country’s largest pension fund, ABP, to divest. Already, campaigners have persuaded a third of the funds’ accountability body members to call on the board to divest its large fossil fuel holdings.

In such a small country, campaigners have been able to meet up regularly for trainings and workshops to network and build their skills.  And there’s been lots of fun and games too.  FossilvrijNL organised a giant game of carbon bubble volleyball outside a coal power plant for the Great Climate Games 2014. They also teamed up with UK activists to hold a joint carbon bubble stunt during the Royal Dutch Shell AGM.

What’s coming up?  Expect a national training event  in early September from country coordinator Liset and her team.  Progress towards a Fossil Free ABP is also anticipated with an upcoming meeting with the Board and an open letter launching soon to collect widespread national support.

It’s been a fantastic few months for the Fossil Free movement in Europe.  Not only are we better connected to each other, better resourced and more powerful as we go into the Autumn, but we’re already winning some of the highest profile victories of the global divestment movement.    Awareness of the carbon bubble has never been higher, thanks to some beautiful, creative actions and a steady flow of media coverage.  This is key to our strategy of stigmatising the fossil fuel industry in Europe.

As the Ban Ki-Moon climate change summit approaches this September in New York, look out for some even bigger victories and mobilisations across Europe and please… Get involved.