On the 6th February, the SU Assembly voted in favour of the motion to boycott Barclays Bank, due to their investment in fossil fuels.
The Assembly also noted that although Durham University has pledged to divest from fossil fuels, it still primarily banks with and invests in Barclays.
The motion was proposed by Seun Twins, a third-year International Relations student from the College of St Hild and St Bede, who is the current Vice President of the People of Colour Association. She is also currently running for SU President.
Between 2016 and 2018, it is estimated that Barclays funded fossil fuel companies $24 billion. This includes funding towards Lancashire fracking, the Dakota Access Pipeline and Cerrejon coal mine in Columbia.
The motion resolved to “Boycott Barclays until they stop financing all fossil fuel companies and extraction projects globally.”
“think globally, but act locally.”– Durham Students’ Union
It also included resolutions for Jess Dunning, the SU Opportunities Officer, to draft and introduce ethical banking policy, while Kate McIntosh, the SU President, to lobby the University to cut all ties with Barclays.
The motion fits into the SU’s broader environmental strategy. In November, the SU voted to declare a climate emergency, encouraging students to “think globally, but act locally”.
Palatinate spoke to Twins about why she proposed the motion and its broader significance.
“It’s a small inconvenience for Durham, for a larger campaign and a larger movement that needs visibility.”– Seun Twins
For her, the motion brought into conversation environmental issues with the campaign to “decolonise the curriculum.” She stated that “boycotting Barclays, as the biggest fossil-fuel investor in the world, has a significant effect on indigenous populations”.
Twins highlighted that divestment in Barclays has a long history, having started in South Africa in the 1980s, and has recently gained traction in UK universities, for example in Birmingham.
She emphasised that, since the University is a major banking partner with an annual budget of over £450 million, the prospect of divestment could send a “strong signal” to Barclays. “It’s a small inconvenience for Durham, for a larger campaign and a larger movement that needs visibility.”
When asked about to what extent the motion would affect students, Twins argued that the SU has a role to lobby for political issues, which are at the heart of students’ concerns. While recognising that the motion did not, for instance, reduce students’ cost of living, she stated that it would form one part of a broader cohesive approach to environmental issues.
Durham University’s environmental strategy, which was launched in January 2018, states that the University is“committed to reducing its environmental impact, and improving the local environment, both for the people who live and work in the University, and for the wider community.”
Image: David Gray via Flickr