The aim of the Fossil Free Newcastle campaign is for Newcastle University to drop all its investments in fossil fuels, or "fully divest", by 2021.
Divestment is the opposite of investment – it is the removal of investment capital from stocks, bonds or funds. The global movement for fossil fuel divestment asks socially influential institutions to move their money out of fossil fuel companies for environmental, moral and financial reasons, and invest in ethical and sustainable alternatives, such as renewable energy.
In May 2016, following a student-led campaign, Newcastle University committed to a partial divestment from fossil fuels. It stated that it would remove its investments in coal, tar sands and 'non-progressive' oil and gas companies. Despite this partial divestment, according to the most recent data, the University still has more than £8 million invested in companies such as Shell, BP and BHP Billiton. "Progressive" or otherwise, companies such as these are still actively exploring for and extracting new fossil fuels at a point in history where we cannot afford to burn even the supplies we already have.
Fossil Free Newcastle are therefore urging Newcastle University to take the important next step of committing to full divestment from fossil fuels.
Why is this important?
From deadly forest fires in California to South Pacific islands sinking as a result of sea-level rise, we are already feeling the effects of climate change and rising global temperatures. This poses a tremendous threat to humanity and all other life on this planet.
Climate change is a social justice issue. It disproportionately affects people who bear little responsibility for its causes, including communities in the Global South who are on the frontline of fossil fuel extraction, and minority-ethnic and working class communities in the Global North.
The latest United Nations IPCC report tells us we must cut global carbon emissions by at least 45% by 2030 if we are to stand any chance of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5°C. If we don't do so, we will face significantly more extreme impacts in the form of droughts, floods, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people, within our lifetimes. We must act collectively to do everything in our power to cut carbon emissions as fast as possible.
The campaign so far…
As part of the campaign, Fossil Free Newcastle did a banner drop with a banner they made together during a craftivism workshop in collaboration with FemSoc.
This action was taken on the 21st of November, during the National Day of Action for Divestment coordinated by People & Planet, when students from different universities across the UK took action to demand their institutions to divest from Fossil Fuels.
The motion “NUSU demands greater transparency and more regular information on Newcastle University’s investments, including fossil fuel divestment” passed at the December NUSU Council. This means that NUSU will demand the University to releases more regular data on the issue of fossil fuel divestment. It also mandates the NUSU President to lobby Newcastle University further on the issue of investments, requesting complete releases of its investment portfolio as soon as possible.
In addition a petition has been created, which Fossil Free Newcastle encourage you to sign and they spoke to the Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University during the turning on of the University's Christmas Tree Lights.
Fossil Free Newcastle recognise that things are moving in the right direction, however they are demanding a commitment to full divestment from all fossil fuel companies, which has not yet been made. During their action at the turning on of the Christmas Lights, the Vice-Chancellor indicated that a full divestment has been made. Fossil Free Newcastle are now asking and waiting for a press release confirming this.
If you would like to keep up to date with the Fossil Free Campaign, you can follow their facebook page. You can also read the most recent press release from the University here that highlights their progress with Fossil Free Divestment so far.