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Oxford City Council calls for divestment

Oxford City Council calls for full divestment from fracking - but when will the University?

Oxford climate groups have renewed calls on the University to fully divest from fossil fuels, after Oxford City Council voted overwhelmingly to disinvest their pension fund from fracking.

It comes at a time when student campaigners are expected to up the pressure on the University, as tensions continue to rise over the investments of Oxford’s endowment.

Oxfordshire residents and student campaigners gathered at Town Hall before the meeting to express their support for the vote, in a rally organised by Oxford University Climate Justice Campaign (OCJC).

The motion, proposed by Labour councillors John Tanner and Richard Howlett, passed 38 votes for and none against, with two abstentions.

The proposal reaffirmed the Council’s opposition to investment in fossil fuels, which they voted for in 2014, and recommended redirecting such investments to renewable energy initiatives.

The motion cited investments of £84 million – equivalent to 3.85% of the £2 billion County pension scheme – in companies which practice fracking or hydraulic fracturing.

Student campaign group OCJC told Cherwell: “OCJC was thrilled to stand alongside citywide climate justice organizers and Oxford community members as we watched our local democratic body call for the fossil-free economy we all deserve.

“Dozens of us gathered to thank Councillors supportive of the motion, and to remember the Frack Free Three activists imprisoned last week for peacefully protesting fracking in Lancashire.

“Beyond the ethical and scientific certainty about obsoleteness of fossil fuels, what we were was hearing was an enthusiasm across party lines about building something better for the City of Oxford.

“This is the  major takeaway  that OCJC campaigners will bring to the University as we start the new academic year: that divestment has been recognized by our own City as an opportunity for building the future we actually want.

“Unlike the University of Oxford, they understand that they can trust their fund managers to generate robust returns while feeding back into the livelihood of this very city instead of relying on the industries that are fuelling climate change.”

Oxford University has a £2 billion Endowment Fund that is managed and invested by the Oxford University Endowment Fund (OUem), which was revealed to be investing in oil extraction and exploration by the  Paradise Papers leaked last November.

Several Oxford colleges also invest through OUem.

In 2014, following student concerns raised through the SU and backed by both staff and alumni, the University agreed to a University-wide consultation on fossil fuel divestment. Students responded by submitting a set of recommendations, which were endorsed by a majority of JCRs and MCRs.

The University’s Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee (SRIRC) responded by submitting its own set of recommendations, directly inspired by the students’, to the University Council.

However, Council decided to prohibit direct investments in coal and tar sands, of which the University already had none.

It also did not commit to any further divestment, allowing continued indirect investment in fossil fuels.

A University spokesperson told Cherwell: “In May 2015, the University’s Council made a statement on fossil fuel investment, following a wide-ranging consultation, and restricting investment in coal and tar sands.

“This statement remains the University’s position and all investment decisions are made in accordance with it.

The Oxford Endowment Fund has low exposure to the energy sector and has actively sought to invest in groups targeting resource efficient companies.”

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