Unethical Investments

SU President, Clem Jones, argues for fossil fuel divestment.

Being  your Students’ Union Vice-President of Education last year was extremely rewarding. As I was a course rep for three years, I was extremely excited to represent your academic interests to the College, and I’m pleased that Jack O’Neill has now picked up the reigns.

However, another burning desire of mine was to ensure that, as an academic community, we were taking drastic measures to fight against what the famous United Nations’ Copenhagen Accords acknowledges as “one of the greatest challenges of our time”: climate change. I ran to be your President on a flagship manifesto point of pledging to ‘Clean Up Our Campus’ by lobbying the College to make sure it is investing its money in socially responsible industries.

The Copenhagen Accords maintain “that climate change is one of the greatest challenges our time”. Every Head of State or Government, Ministers, and other heads of delegation present at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2009 emphasised their “strong political will to urgently combat climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”. It is clear that climate change is a big issue and we must work together to tackle it.

Despite this, however, the College’s ethical investment policy does not preclude investment in fossil fuel companies; its policy only precludes the direct investment in FTSE All Share Index stocks in Military and Aerospace where military involvement amounts to greater than 33.3% in turnover. The profligate burning of fossil fuels is undoubtedly a major worldwide contributor to global warming, which presents a very real risk to the longevity of the College (and indeed the human race).

It is my view that a commitment to fossil fuel divestment from the college would carry significant symbolic weight in the our fight for national acceptance of the scale of change needed to avoid disaster and achieve a more equitable society (and world). The College’s endowment investments are actively managed by third party fund managers in line with the above policy of ‘ethical investment’. However, the College recently updated me about their financial plans and informed me that it is planning to review its investment management arrangements, which will include a review of best practice arrangements surrounding ethical investment management. This is a good first step.

However, I am very interested in seeing what potential bidders propose as being ‘ethical’ ways of investing the College’s money, and have asked to be kept involved with the review report, which I will receive by the end of October. There is no time to waste – if we want to avoid an irreversibly dangerous rise in the Earth’s temperature, we have to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and it is my belief that the College should play its part by moving any money invested in the fossil fuel industry into cleaner ones.