Durham University outlines plan to review issue of divestment

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Following a University-wide consultation on whether they should divest in fossil fuels, Durham University have released a statement outlining plans to review their investments and the consequences of divestment.

The issue of divestment has been of great importance since March 2015 after Palatinate found that the University had invested over £4.5 million in various fossil fuel companies and had partnerships with companies including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Anadarko Petroleum.

According to a Greenpeace survey at the time, Durham placed 7th out of 39 Universities in terms of how much money they had invested in fossil fuels.

In a statement to Palatinate in November 2015, the University said: “Students and staff would need to demonstrate a real strength of feeling on the issue of divestment and convince the Vice Chancellor that this is a priority for the University community, in order for it to be considered by the University Committee.”

However, the University have just released a statement outlining new plans, saying: “Durham University’s governing Council has agreed that a Commission is to be established by the University Executive Committee (UEC) to review the issue of investment in the fossil fuel industry and the consequences of divestment for the University.

“The development follows agreement by UEC on the need to listen to a breadth of views from students and staff and to consult with elected student representatives.

“The University has consulted with Durham Student’s Union on the scope of work, and the Commission will consider divestment from companies “that participate in exploration for and/or extraction of fossil fuel reserves”.

“The Commission will be co-ordinated by Dr Amanda Ellison under the leadership of Professor David Cowling, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Arts and Humanities) and will comprise student body representatives as well as senior members of staff.”

This decision comes after many demonstrations and campaigns, particularly from the Durham Young Greens and the People and Planet Society.

People and Planet have held several demonstrations, including one on Palace Green where protestors covered themselves in black treacle, and a Halloween-themed event outside the Bill Bryson Library to encourage students to sign their petition for divestment.

In addition to this, the Durham Students Union passed a motion in March 2015 to support the Fossil-Free campaign, and many College JCRs have also given their support to the cause.

Beyond the University, the Durham campaign for divestment has also had the support of Green party leader Natalie Bennett, who signed letters to the University, Durham Cathedral and Durham County Council, requesting that they remove all investments in such companies.

The UEC’s Commission is due to hold its first meeting at the start of the 2016/17 academic year.

Photograph: James Ennis

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