Text by Cherry Tsoi and Joep Karskens, Fossil Free Lund University
Our university made the decision on Friday (June 12, 2015) to divest parts of their investments in coal, oil and gas. This is a large victory for our campaign and for climate justice, as the coal, oil and gas industry are for the first time pinpointed in the university’s official documents as an unethical investment.
What does this mean?
Within 5 years, Lund University aim to divest their direct holdings – money donated to the university directly – from coal, oil and gas companies. This applies to approximately 1/10 of the investments that the university is responsible for – the ones that the board has direct control of – but not the foundations that make up 9/10 of their investments.
This means they are dedicated to divest their appr 160 million SEK “direct donations” from fossil fuels, while the over 1.6 billion SEK valued foundations remain to be divested.
The new ethical guidelines say that funds ”may not invest in companies where business within coal, oil and gas extraction is more than 10% of their profit or revenue”. (our translation)
Even if this isn’t full divestment, the decision for the first time shows clearly the board’s commitment to take responsibility for investments to be aligned with the university’s values regarding climate change.
How did we get there?
Two years ago LU students launched the Fossil Free campaign, demanding that the university divest from fossil fuels. During this time there has been a gradual build-up of pressure on the university to make the right decision; once more than 1600 students signed a petition with these demands, the students handed over the long list of signatures to the former vice-chancellor right before the University Board’s two-monthly meeting in October 2014 – and came back to remind the board with banners and even more signatures every following meeting throughout last year.
In support of their students, 180 researchers and staff wrote a compelling open letter to the Board urging them to divest – for ethical as well as financial reasons:
Investing in fossil fuels is not only unethical but also plain stupid in light of the ambitions to mitigate climate change. The opposite, clean technologies, is growing faster and gives better returns for the economy and the environment, commented Professor Lars Nelsson.
Professor Erik Clark added:
Research at Lund University and internationally shows that the actions of financial institutions contribute to generating climate change. Strategic investment of financial resources is an important means to reduce use of fossil fuels. To not divest in assets associated with high use of fossil fuels is to contribute to the crisis.”
With 1800 student signatures, 180 researchers and staff and the majority of the student unions supporting them, the Fossil Free campaigners organised another week of actions right before the Board’s last meeting before summer on the 8th of June. Students from Lund University, as well Gothenburg University and Uppsala University, organised an online Twitter storm challenging their universities to break the silence from their side on this topic and come with an official statement on their position.
On the 12th of June, Lund University’s official statement was this: divestment of their direct donations.
For two years (and in examples from the US even up to four or five years), the University board responded on our demands with the same answers or no answers at all. Decisions were postponed until the next meeting or the next financial report.
We are thus very excited about this partial commitment to divestment, and we recognize that the university board is increasing its efforts to hear our plea – showing a clear endorsement of the idea of divestment. However, this is not the end of the road for Fossil Free LU – we need a complete divestment from the University board, and we will continue to encourage Lund university to lead as one of the first Swedish universities to fully divest from fossil fuels.