Fifty nine members of Oxford University's academe signed a manifesto urging the university to be more considerate on the issue of climate change. It is known and of record that Oxford has investments in fossil fuel companies in the form of endowments amounting to £3.8 Billion, sparking a march by hundreds who are demanding change.
It was during a university-wide consultation on fossil fuel divestment that the manifesto was brought forward. These consultations will conclude on June 23.
The consultation was announced after more than 200 students and residents rallied through Oxford last Saturday. This was after a year of unrelenting pressure from the Fossil Free campaign led by the students themselves. They are calling on the university and the city council to stop their involvement in the fossil fuel business and to divest their investments from it.
In their manifesto, the Oxford University academe argue that Oxford has a responsibility to be in the forefront in addressing one of the most urgent concerns that we as a people are challenged with and find a solution to this problem that we now face.
Signatories to the letter or manifesto include the former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, Lord Professor Robert May, the professor of Atmospheric Physics, Lesley Gray, and the current director of the Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the environment, Professor Gordon Clark. He is also the former chair of the University's Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee.
Henry Shue, professor of Politics and International Relations said
"We at Oxford like to claim the mantle of intellectual leadership. Here, where the entrenched fossil fuel interests are putting up a nasty and dirty fight to protect the value of the assets that will be stranded if we exit the energy regime they dominate, is our opportunity to display genuine leadership when it counts.Signatory Brenda Boardman, emeritus Oxford fellow at the Environmental Change Institute, said while speaking at the rally:
"We can only burn 20% of the carbon in the proven fossil fuel reserves. We'll have reached that limit in 16 years at present rates of consumption. We know about housing bubbles.Universities in the USA are already committed to divest.
"Now we have a carbon bubble, a bubble of unreal value. It is too risky to own shares in this bubble. It has to burst and will burst if we are sane and want to avoid dangerous climate change."
The Oxford manifesto has a similar course of action to that of the Harvard academe where members of the faculty called for divestment in a letter released in April this year. It now enjoys support internationally from well-known people and leaders. Twelve American universities and 26 cities have already committed to divest.
At Oxford University, an estimated 900 students and alumni as well as members of the University Student Union have signed a petition calling on the University of Oxford to divest.
Last Saturday's rally garnered the support of a cross section of the UK's population from simple folk to professionals, intellectuals, the labor sector, church leaders and others.
A student at Oxford made this comment:
"It's exciting to see so many professors calling on Oxford to divest. The time is right for the University to side with its academe and get out of the fossil fuel business.Oxford University is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. Founded in 1096, Oxford has overseen the education of 27 Nobel laureates.
[Image from Wikimedia]