This year has been extraordinarily successful - so many People & Planet adventures and incredible progress with our Go Fossil Free campaign! Below are the highlights of our successes, and plans for events to come in the New Year. Merry Christmas everyone!!
On the 11th of this month People and Planet in collaboration with Sheffield Climate Alliance hosted a Climate Hustings in the Hicks Building. Witnessed by roughly 40 people, four politicians presented their personal views and aims across a wide range of climate related issues ranging from fracking to community farming. Attending were the Labour candidate for Sheffield Hallam Oliver Coppard, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the same constituency Joe Otten, and the Green Party candidates Jillian Creasy and Peter Garbutt - standing in Central and Hallam respectively.
Efforts had been made to contact candidates from other parties, but the absence of representation from what could be considered the more right-wing and typically climate-sceptic parties clearly says something salient about both their assessment of the dangers of climate change and their willingness to address the situation. In addition, none of the candidates who attended are likely to be elected come May, and this may indicate something about the prioritisation of other policies over the climate by those more likely to be elected. Is the climate only being addressed by those needing to seek a greater audience in the hope of election, and if so, then does this inspire hope in a top-down political solution?
Among the issues discussed was fracking, with candidates asked whether they would advocate fracking locally and nationally. Both greens rejected fracking as a solution, while Joe Otten said it was necessary. Oliver Coppard was opposed to fracking in local areas, but maintained that it is the government’s prerogative “to keep the lights on” and that fracking would ensure this. However, he did show support for community energy schemes, and all candidates expressed sympathy with the idea of community farming schemes to tackle the food system’s contribution to climate change.
While all four panelists agreed that tackling climate change was a priority, there was a split in terms of achieving this. Peter Garbutt and Joe Otten in particular clashed, with the latter advocating what Garbutt called “techno-fixes” such as carbon capture and storage. Garbutt claimed that these would keep us “hooked” on fossil fuels and that investment in renewables was the best way forward.
One of the last points discussed was the divestment campaign, which received support from the Green and Labour candidates, who believed that it has the potential to snowball. Joe Otten felt that such a campaign would never effectively reduce investment in fossil fuel companies - missing the point somewhat. The campaign is as much about removing fossil fuel companies’ social license and to spread awareness. Moreover, the fact that divestment is and has happened across the globe contradicts him also.
All in all it was an insightful discussion. Unsurprisingly it was the Greens who had the most pro-climate stance, but Oliver Coppard also came out of the hustings appearing to have a fairly progressive view on climate issues. Joe Otten, who constantly failed to grasp the irony of criticizing Labour and Conservatives for austerity policies, and seemed determined to convey the entire Lib Dem manifesto, failed to inspire much confidence.
Last Monday (1st December) the University held its termly investment group meeting in the Arts Tower to discuss the future of the University’s investments.
Our SU development officer Jack Wyse, who is a strong supporter of the fossil fuel divestment campaign, was present at the meeting to put the matter of fossil fuel divestment squarely in front of some of the University’s big financial ‘movers and shakers’ including Bob Rabone (Head of Finance), David Young (the Investment Group Chairman) and representatives from Sarasins & partners (the body that manages the University’s investments). People and Planet also turned out at the Arts Tower in full force with signs and banners in hand, to make a big impression on these individuals as they arrived at the meeting.
During the meeting Sarasins and Partners said that they were aware of the Fossil Free campaign at other universities whose funds they also manage but that this was the first time they had actually discussed divestment in the context of a board meeting: an achievement we can be proud of! However whilst in principle they were in agreement with the idea, the other board members said that they would not make a statement of intent to begin divesting from fossil fuels (yet).
So all this means is that we need to keep campaigning as hard as ever to put more pressure on the University to divest before they begin drawing up their ‘Sustainable Investment Policy’ in May. And with our petition reaching the 1000 signature mark last week, there is every sign that we’re gaining momentum!