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People and Planet stage Halloween-themed protest around central campus buildings

On Monday October 31, students from the University of Edinburgh staged a Halloween themed protest, urging the University to draw their investments from armaments and fossil fuel companies.

The students left Jack-O’-Lanterns around the George Square campus which were carved with messages encouraging the University to withdraw their association with the corporations.

The five-year divestment campaign is being led by People & Planet Society and the Edinburgh University Students’ Association.

The campaign calls for the University to discontinue its financial backing of the arms and fossil fuel industries, and instead reinvest these funds into more sustainable sectors.

The students want to continue protesting until the University makes a public commitment to withdrawing investments from the oil and gas giants EOG Resources and Apache Inc. 

They also want the University to pledge not to invest in any arms manufacturers or any of the top 200 index fossil fuel extraction companies in the future.

Cait Jobson, first year student in Sociology and protester for the campaign, told The Student: “The University management has continuously refused to denounce the fossil fuel and arms industries publicly, as well as failing to recognise the part played by students who campaign for divestment.

“Although the University has made good progress on its investments in the last few years, we hope that it will take this last, vital, step in the right direction”, Jobson said.

Calista Hobart, MSc student in Science and Technology Studies, told The Student she took part in the protest because she feels “Edinburgh University is ignoring the voices of its students”.

She continued saying: “It makes me very uncomfortable that the same institution to which I pay my fees not only contributes financially to these industries but is slow to take action despite overwhelming student support for divestment”.

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson told The Student: “We are committed to using our finances to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world.”

Denying some information given by the campaigners, he said: “In line with our responsible investment policy, we do not invest in companies directly involved in coal and tar sands, the highest carbon-emitting industries. In the summer of 2015 we removed millions of pounds from three of the world’s biggest fossil fuels producers.

“A report by financial advisers Mercer said that the proportion of Edinburgh’s portfolio linked to fossil fuels has halved since 2013 and fallen by almost 90 per cent since 2008”, he continued.

The spokesperson confirmed to The Student that the University is “not idle on this issue. The content of our investment portfolio is under constant review. At the same time we are investing millions of pounds to develop low-carbon and renewable energy technologies for the benefit of all.

“When low-carbon alternatives emerge, we have committed to divest from fossil fuels.

“As the first European university to sign the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment, our commitment is not restricted to fossil fuels”.

Moreover, he said: “In September 2015, we confirmed we do not, and never will, invest in companies involved in controversial weapons or any company with a significant interest in armaments.

“This approach has been developed in discussion with elected student representatives. We believe it to be balanced and socially responsible.”

The students will not end their protest until the University draws their investments from all fossil fuel companies.

Nuri Syed Corser, fourth year student in Social Anthropology and Politics, told The Student: “It’s integral that universities like Edinburgh use their influence and prestige to drive forward a just transition to a carbon-neutral economy.

“It’s only by removing investments from fossil fuel companies that we can break the power of this industry.”

The student campaign led by People & Planet Society and the Students’ Association is part of the world-wide divestment movement, which has successfully lobbied over 600 institutions to withdraw more than $3.4 trillion from fossil fuels.

Image: People and Planet

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The Student Newspaper 2016