April 18, 2015

Oil slick flash mob protest at Wellcome Collection: Puts pressure on Wellcome Trust to ditch fossil fuels

Divest London at Wellcome Trust-4London – Today 100 protesters staged an ‘oil slick flashmob’ at the Wellcome Collection to increase the pressure on Wellcome Trust to divest its holdings in fossil fuels (1). Having entered the public gallery just before 11am, protesters dressed in black lay down and filled the lobby to represent a giant oil slick and highlight the Wellcome Trust’s unhealthy relationship with the fossil fuel industry.

Lorna Buky-Webster, Divest London spokesperson said:

“The action we need to combat climate change is being deliberately obstructed by a powerful fossil fuel industry with much to lose. As the global health challenge of our time, we need world leading organisations like the Wellcome Trust to take a strong stance on climate change that goes to the heart of the issue.

While we celebrate the contributions that the Wellcome Trust has made to human health, we must push them to join the fight for climate justice with action bold enough to match the scale of the challenge. As time runs out for meaningful climate action, we urge the Wellcome Trust to distance itself from the one industry on the planet causing the most damage to human health. It’s time to divest from fossil fuels.

Dr Mark Horowitz, doctor and PhD student said:

“The Wellcome has chosen to divest from tobacco companies because of the contradiction this poses to its core goals. Yet more people die every year from climate change and air pollution than from tobacco; the Wellcome Trust should not continue to fund the drivers of many of the diseases it seeks to cure.

There have been 150 shareholder resolutions related to climate change filed at fossil fuel companies over the last 23 years with no significant effect. A Wellcome Trust-funded scientist wouldn’t repeat the same experiment after 150 failures, so why would the Wellcome Trust?”

The event, organised by grassroots group Divest London, follows a campaign from the Guardian calling on two of the world’s largest philanthropic organisations, The Wellcome Trust and The Gates Foundation, to end their investment in fossil fuels. Despite the growing number of charitable trusts and foundations committing to divest from fossil fuels, and more than 180,000 people signing the petition calling for divestment, the Wellcome Trust’s director Jeremy Farrar has refused to do so, stating that it believes in active engagement with fossil fuel companies as a shareholder.



Interviews and high res photos available

Danielle Paffard, 350.org – 07979817888, [email protected]


 Dr Mark Horowitz +44 7733176542  [email protected], David Powe, Divest London Spokesperson, for more information: [email protected], +447510962576

Danielle Paffard, 350.org, Divest London lead coordinator – 350.org (+447979817888 and [email protected]) for more information on City Hall campaign.


Notes to editors

  1. The Wellcome Trust is the second biggest health charity and non-governmental funder of health research in the world. It has an £18bn endowment and that fund contains large investments in fossil fuels, including  more than £450 million invested in Shell, BP, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

  1. Divest London is a grassroots group pushing organisations across London to divest from fossil fuels. They were behind the unanimous London Assembly vote to divest City Hall and approach the London Pension Fund Authority.

  1. The Unhealthy Investment Report lays out the connection between health, climate change and fossil fuels and argues health organisations have a duty to divest.


On the Fossil Free movement

In 2012, 350.org launched a campaign advocating fossil fuel divestment – the act of withdrawing or withholding financial capital from companies that participate in fossil fuel exploration, extraction or transportation.[1] The primary rationale for the campaign is as follows: if it is wrong to wreck the planet, it is wrong to profit from this wreckage. The central aim of the campaign is to advocate that public and private institutions, which have direct and indirect investments in the 200 companies with the largest carbon reserves, to divest their shareholdings and to re-invest in less destructive enterprises.

This campaign has become the fastest growing divestment movement ever.[1] It currently encompasses around 600 university groups spanning four continents,[2] as well as groups seeking fossil fuel divestment by institutions such as city and state councils, pension funds, religious organisations and charitable foundations. Fourteen higher education institutions have already committed to divest fully or in part, including, notably, Stanford University, which will divest its $18.7 Billion endowment from 100 coal companies (entailing the disposal of $1 Billion in coal-linked stockholdings).[3] Conversely, Harvard has rejected calls for divestment, prompting a critical response from faculty members, 129 of whom have signed an open letter urging the University to reconsider its decision.[4]

Glasgow University became the first university in Europe to divest from fossil fuel industries.[5] The NUS supports divestment,[6] adding weight to the 65 active student campaigns across Britain.[7] In addition, organisations such as the Quakers, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the British Medical Association have committed to divest their stocks and holdings in the fossil fuel industry[8].

[1] A. Ansar, B. Caldotte & J. Tilbury, ‘Stranded Assets and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign: What does Divestment Mean for Stranded Assets?’ (2013) (http://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/research/stranded-assets/index.html?content=publications).

[2] Fossil Free (http://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/).

[3] Stanford University News (http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/may/divest-coal-trustees-050714.html)

[4] Harvard Faculty for Divestment (http://www.harvardfacultydivest.com/).

[5] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29547137

[6] People & Planet (http://peopleandplanet.org/navid17403).

[7] http://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/partnerships/fossil-free-uk/

[8] https://gofossilfree.org/commitments/