With the Fossil Free UCL divestment campaign seemingly gaining momentum, Provost Michael Arthur and co. are deliberately dragging their feet.
Despite promises to Fossil Free UCL that UCL council would “give its Investment Committee an explicit remit to monitor its approach to responsible investment”, comments made by Arthur at the Academic Board meeting on 25th January indicate that, to the contrary, UCL has no intention of halting its investment in the Fossil Fuel industry, which accounts for approximately 8% of UCL’s £142 million endowment.
When asked at the Academic Board meeting what assurances there were that UCL would not seek future funding from the fossil fuel industry, Arthur replied that there were “no assurances whatsoever,” before going on to say that “I don’t think we should run a policy that prevents us from applying to [fossil fuel companies] for appropriate funding or appropriate research contracts.” Arthur argued that UCL’s engineering department, in particular, is heavily reliant on funding from fossil fuel companies.
Furthermore, Arthur argued that divestment from an entire industry “would be unusual, but not unheard of.” Arthur pointed out that UCL had only ever divested from one entire industry; claiming that it was a ‘pragmatic’ decision, UCL had only divested from tobacco as they would have been excluded from all medical charitable funding otherwise.
It would certainly seem to be the case, then, that Slick Mick and his management chums have been caught red-handed in trying to appease Fossil Free UCL, whilst pursuing an active policy of non-divestment.
The Sustainability, Engagement and Operations Officer, Zakariya Mohran told The Cheese Grater that: “UCL was built on founding principles of academic excellence and research aimed at addressing real-world problems. The realist and biggest problem we have right now affecting every single member of humanity is Climate Change, and UCL should acknowledge that in both its research and its dealings.”
Justine Canady from Fossil Free UCL said: “Divestment is a separate issue from accepting funding from these companies; and divestment at the other 43 UK universities has not adversely affected their engineering departments.”