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Oxford Climate Justice Campaign calls on University to tackle climate crisis and ‘systemic racism’

Oxford University Climate Justice Campaign (OCJC) has renewed its calls for the University and its colleges to take greater action to reduce their contribution to the climate crisis and climate-driven injustices.

In an interview with The Oxford Blue, OCJC said it was “very expectant that this year more Colleges will divest as divestment continues to gather momentum,” after recent years have seen Balliol, Wadham and St Hilda’s colleges committing to remove their investments from fossil fuels.

After action taken by the organisation Direct Action for Divestment (which was supported by OCJC members) resulted in St John’s President stating that she would bring a recommendation regarding divestment to the college’s governing body, OCJC stated that it will be keeping pressure on the college to deliver on its promise.

The group encouraged students to call on their colleges to divest, adding: “The longer we wait, the more time we give fossil fuel companies to keep destroying our planet and ensure that the global South continues to suffer from neo-colonialism.”

Facing campaigning challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, OCJC said that it will be holding online meetings every Wednesday evening, and is looking for “innovative ways to hold online protests that continue to place pressure on the university.”

Aside from campaigns for colleges to divest, the group said that it has been conducting “extensive research” into hundreds of links between Oxford University and fossil fuel companies. These include research by the Oxford Maths Department into “optimal oil well placement” and the sponsoring of 7 PhD fellows at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies by Saudi Aramco.

It argues that these links demonstrate “Oxford’s continued desire to put profit above the planet,” and accuses fossil fuel companies of attempting “to gain a social licence for their continued environmental and human rights abuses.”

OCJC confirmed that it will be releasing a report into the links between Oxford and fossil fuel companies in several months’ time.

Furthermore, the campaign has accused the Careers Service of enabling these companies “to sell the pretence that fossil fuels have a moral and economic future,” despite the fact that, “the continued existence of fossil fuel companies endangers our collective futures- and especially the livelihoods of people living in the global South.”

The Careers Service advertises placements and jobs with fossil fuel companies, and OCJC is demanding that the Service should cease advertising careers with these companies, or forming partnerships with them. One firm regularly advertised by the Service is the world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, which holds stakes in ExxonMobil, Chevron and the mining company Glencore. Whilst earlier this year the company pledged to divest $500m from coal-related businesses, two-thirds of its $7 trillion assets are in funds that cannot be easily switched to sustainable practices.

The Climate Justice Campaign stated: “Fossil fuel companies are causing natural disasters to become more common, food to become more scarce and species to die off. Under no situation is it morally right to recommend working for such a company.”

In April this year, Oxford University decided to divest its endowment fund from the fossil fuel industry, after a nearly decade-long campaign by OCJC and others.

The group says that it hopes the University will go further this year, and that it should “at the minimum issue a public statement acknowledging that fossil fuel companies do commit extensive environmental destruction and human rights abuses, and that it was wrong of them to have taken money from these companies, or to have invested in them when they knew about these abuses.”

OCJC said an integral part of this campaign is for the University to “recognise that fossil fuel companies continue to exacerbate racial injustice and the exploitation of indigenous peoples.” It added: “Oxford must do this as part of recognising not only its contribution to exacerbating the climate crisis but also its institutionalised and systematic racism.”

The Careers Service has also been contacted for comment.

Max Spokes

Max (he/him) is Environment News Editor at The Oxford Blue for Michaelmas 2020. He is in his second year studying History and Politics at Balliol.