John joins Edinburgh students’ climate protest

"Occupied until Divestment" placard at Charles Stewart House, Edinburgh University
Photo: Edinburgh People and Planet
John has praised student climate activists who have occupied an Edinburgh University finance office over the University’s decision to continue investing in the coal and tar sands industries.

At the invitation of Edinburgh’s People and Planet group, John will be visiting the occupation and speaking to the campaigners this afternoon.

Edinburgh University’s top governing body, the University Court, voted unanimously last Tuesday (12 May) to reject calls to divest from the dirtiest fossil fuels. Over 30 students occupied Charles Stewart House, which houses the University’s finance department, the following day.

In October last year, Glasgow University became the first in Europe to divest from fossil fuels, withdrawing £18m of investments from the industry, after a student campaign that was also led by People and Planet activists.

John has been campaigning for divestment and ethical investment practices, including calling for investments in fossil fuels, weapons and tobacco to be dropped from the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme. [2]

Ahead of his visit to the University, John said:

“There can hardly be a more nakedly selfish act than profiting off of the human suffering of climate change.

“I am disgusted by the University bosses’ decision to keep on bankrolling the big oil and coal corporations that are knowingly destroying the very futures of the students the University exists to serve.

“These are companies like Shell, which, it was revealed yesterday, is operating based on a strategy that allows global average temperature to rise by 4°C – twice the level considered the maximum safe increase by scientists. Companies which, despite their huge profits, take more money in subsidies than the world’s governments spend on healthcare.

“The idea that these companies can be made benign by ‘engagement’ is utterly, and probably wilfully, naïve. Institutions who claim to care at all about the world they are shaping with their money need to stop supplying harmful industries with capital and instead put that money into the alternatives, like renewable energy, that have massive potential but are crying out for investment.

“I am optimistic about our chances, not least because of the courageous actions of the students I’ve met here today. As long as there are principled people willing to fight for our future, we have a chance of human welfare ultimately winning out over corporate profit.

“The campaign to get Edinburgh University out of the oil business is far from over, and neither is the fight for a safe climate.”

Peter McColl, a former Rector of Edinburgh University, policy director of the Common Weal think tank, and Scottish Greens candidate for Edinburgh East in the recent General Election, is joining John at the occupation today. He said:

“The great issues of our day are the environmental and economic crises. I’m hugely proud of the students occupying Edinburgh University, who are taking a vital stand to solve these crises.

“Now is the time to divest from fossil fuels. At a time when investment in clean energy technology like wind and solar power is vital we must invest in these technologies rather than the dirty fuels of the past. We need to develop ways to store the energy generated through these technologies. That also requires serious investment, but promises huge rewards. It’s an area where Scotland – including our universities – can lead the world, and end climate change’s destruction of people’s lives.”