1. We need it to avert climate change
Other options to act on climate change have failed to produce changes on the scale necessary to avert dangerous temperature rises, and have not addressed the primary underlying driver of climate change – the continued combustion of fossil fuels. While divestment has tended been an option of last resort, the current business model of the fossil fuel industry is entirely based on the continued exploitation of fossil fuel reserves, likely at current trends to push us towards four degrees of global warming.
As Bill McKibben stated in 2012, ‘if it’s wrong to wreck the climate, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage’, and continued association with such firms is inconsistent with the ethos and values that UEA espouses as an institution.
2. UEA is already committed to being green
Fossil fuel divestment would be consistent with the university’s corporate plan which states that the university aims to be ‘an exemplar low carbon university…and of best practice environmentally’. While UEA is committed to reducing emission 35% by 2015 from a 1990 baseline, importantly a key recommendation of the Initial Environmental Review’ (IER) commissioned by the university was to ‘extend carbon reduction targets to incorporate other direct and indirect sources of emissions.’ This logically extends to the university’s financial activities, which must be taken into consideration alongside more obvious emissions sources.
3. There’s a financial case, but this is about more than just money
Nationally, UK universities hold £5.2 billion worth of funds invested in fossil fuels (Lander 2013), a point worth noting, however divestment is principally a moral and social strategy, intended to take away the ‘social licence’ of such companies to operate as they do currently. A recent University of Oxford study concluded that the stigmatisation process of the divestment campaign posed the most far reaching threat to the industry, and although divestment is unlikely to severely impact companies financially, it may indirectly produce tangible financial impacts relating to debt financing and evolving market norms (Ansar et al 2013). Divestment has recently gained increased traction internationally, with a number of high profile figures, including former Irish President Mary Robinson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu coming out in its favour, the latter drawing parallels with the divestment movement that was credited with helping to bring down apartheid.
More information, including the financial case for divestment, can be found in this 10-page report: http://ueafossilfree.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/divestment-report.pdf