Fossil Free Lund is asking for a clear, uncontested declaration of 100% divestment from bonds or packages involving fossil fuel companies. That’s the most important issue when the Board of Lund University will discuss a new policy for investment, writes student Cherry Tsoi.
The international Fossil Free movement (350.org, gofossilfree.org) is an urgent cry for organizations to stop financially supporting fossil fuel companies responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas pollution driving increasingly dangerous climate change. Climate change is a cause of major species extinction, intense droughts that threaten crops and seriously compromise our freshwater supplies, and extreme weather events, contributing to an estimated 250 000 additional deaths per year.
Fossil Free is gaining traction and attention on the world stage. Recently, Swedish institutions and municipalities including the Church of Sweden and the town of Örebro, and the University of Glasgow have all made the commitment to fully divest from fossil fuels. Two out of three of these initiatives come from Sweden, in alignment with the country’s continued position as an international leader of environmental sustainability. It is the perfect time and opportunity for Lund University to join in and help lead this growing global movement.
Presently, Lund University (LU) has not officially signed on to a fossil free commitment. LU Foundation handles the investment of university funds into certain investment packages offered by Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) – packages that could (and currently do) include fossil fuel companies, directly financing the continued dominance and development of the industry most responsible for the crisis of global warming.
Lena Baastad, the mayor of Örebro, recognized that “action [should be taken] on climate change on various levels”. To ensure progress towards a sustainable, low-carbon future to combat climate change, it is important that “financial assets don’t work in the opposite direction”, namely by continuing to invest in fossil fuel companies.
The LU Board made a decision to include “ethical rules” in fund investment in April 2004. Vice-Chancellor Göran Bexell stated (direct translation from Swedish to English): “Through ethical regulations, university placements should not only be controlled by interests in economic benefit, but also by humanitarian, social, and environmental issues.”
It is time for Lund University to step up to these promises. Fossil Free Lund demands the following stipulations be included in these ethical regulations:
- LU stops new investments in fossil energy
- Within five years, LU phases out all existing ownership in fossil energy
- LU transparently reports the university’s progress towards a completed divestment each trimester
- Asks their employees’ pension funds, primarily the AP funds, to divest its assets.
The board convenes again on November 7 to discuss “new investment rules that take into account values on sustainable development”, says Klemens Ganslandt. Fossil Free Lund is asking for a clear, uncontested declaration of 100% divestment from bonds or packages involving fossil fuel companies. Current investments at Lund University include Allianceoil and Lundin Petroleum.
Senior lecturer Kimberly Nicholas of the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies stated, “The science is clear: the climate is warming, and human activity is to blame. Continued warming risks serious harm to crops, water resources, and natural ecosystems. New research shows that now is a critical time to act decisively on climate change, and that in order to avoid the most dangerous consequences, the majority of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground instead of polluting the atmosphere.
Personally, I believe that universities, where these results come from, have an ethical responsibility to take the lead in taking this research seriously and acting accordingly. I am inspired by the divestment movement as an effective way to jump-start the transition away from the risks of today’s fossil-fuel-based system. Lund University is an international leader in sustainability, and we should be at the forefront of this effort.”
Olivia Linander, lead coordinator of the Fossil Free divestment campaign for Sweden, recently emphasized the importance of divestment: “You cannot talk about sustainability while funding an industry that is causing climate wreckage.” There is hope that the board will make the decision that reconciles the University’s best humanitarian and environmental interests with the corresponding action of going 100% fossil free.