We decided as a group, by consensus, that Sheffield's Fossil Free campaign should move on to tackle the University's research links with fossil fuel companies. Though we still don't have a full picture of how much money, and from whom, the University receives from the industry to fund research, we know that Shell are donors and the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences are recipients.
We think that ending fossil funded research is an extension of the logic of divestment. Fossil Fuel companies continue to be able to perpetuate and profit from climate change because they are afforded a social license to do so. This means that as a society, we are content with the industry acting as they wish. That social license is consolidated by reputable public institutions, like our University, when they maintain links with the industry whether that's through financial investments or researching on their behalf. We are part of a global movement to challenge the power and influence of the fossil fuel industry, and the University of Sheffield can play an important part in the assault on the industry's legitimacy by severing all ties with it. Just as it removed its financial investments from fossil fuel companies, it must refuse to conduct research on their behalf.
Climate change is a continuation of the historic violences of capitalism and colonialism. It is indicative of the abusive relationship between the Global North and South. As the Global North profits and 'develops', the Global South (and historically colonised indigenous peoples) are left on the front lines of climate change, feeling its most severe effects first and worst. Front line communities and indigenous activists around the world are calling for us to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Climate chaos is already being wreaked and people are already living insecure and precarious lives, but this is the only way we can avoid even more catastrophic climate change. By accepting funding from the very industry that drives climate change, the University of Sheffield is actively contributing to the production of knowledge that will support the industry in their attempts to prolong their ability to profit from fossil fuel extraction for as long as possible. Whether that is by researching 'efficient' methods of extraction, or greenwashing research into 'sustainable energy' that simply seeks to strengthen that increasingly tarnished reputations of fossil fuel barons, fossil-funded research is co2lonialist and cannot be part of a move towards climate justice. The production of co2lonialist, extractivist knowledge is a false solution and it must be opposed.
So the demand of the new campaign is simple. The University of Sheffield must immediately stop accepting any new funding for research from any of the top 200 fossil fuel companies, and must not renew any existing funding after it expires.
Researching on behalf of fossil fuel industries, contributing to the production of co2lonial knowledge is a red line which cannot be crossed in the fight against climate catastrophe. Fossil Free in Sheffield is back, and we're not going away. UNTIL WE WIN!
Please sign our petition to get the University of Sheffield to cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry, including research for funding -
By Chris Saltmarsh