join donate discuss

Manchester Green Party supports students occupying university over fossil fuel investment

Manchester Green Party is sending its support to students occupying The University of Manchester and have joined calls to stop its £11.9m investment in fossil fuels.

People & Planet UoM have taken over the university’s finance boardroom since Tuesday 19 November and have vowed to remain in place until the University agrees to divest from fossil fuel investments.

Members of Manchester Green Party’s Young Greens have been part of the occupation, which they hope will come to end following an emergency meeting with University representatives on Monday.

Kate Benson, Young Green Officer of the Manchester Green Party, said: “We are outraged by the University’s claims to be environmentally sustainable whilst continuing to invest in companies fuelling the climate crisis. We are prepared to accept nothing less than full divestment by the University.

“We have been occupying since Tuesday (19th) and will continue for as long as necessary. It has been a difficult experience with no food allowed and over 24 hours without access to toilets. The campaign for divestment has been ongoing for eight years with little action from the University, and occupation has come at a last resort.”

The University of Manchester currently invests £11,975,986 in companies including oil giants Shell, mining company Glencore, and one of the world’s largest metal and mining corporations, Rio Tinto. On Tuesday, 16 students began occupation of the John Owens building following an earlier protest in June, where the group occupied the office of the Vice-Chancellor, Dame Nancy Rothwell.

Lucy Bannister, Green Party candidate for Withington, and a University of Manchester alumnus, said: “Manchester Green Party fully supports the students’ occupation of the University, and we call upon the board of governors and senior leaders to listen to their demands and divest from investing in fossil fuels.

“I am disappointed the University has made little to no progress in acting on this urgent issue, which is in contradiction to their pledge to support Manchester’s goal to become carbon neutral and plastic-free. The University of Manchester should recognise their responsibility as a high-profile UK institution to set an example in this time of climate emergency and we join in the calls to demand they divest from fossil fuels.”

Students from People & Planet UoM, said: “We’re bringing this to their doorstep so that they can’t ignore us anymore. We’ve tried hard to engage with the University Officers and the Board of Governors, but they refuse to open a dialogue with us. If we’re sitting inside their offices, they don’t have that option.”

The full text of the motion – passed at Manchester Green Party’s November 2019 AGM – reads as follows:

“Manchester Green Party affirms our solidarity with the People & Planet UoM occupation of The University of Manchester’s Finance Boardroom and corridor in the John Owens Building, in order to demand the University’s divestment from fossil fuels. We stand with the students (including members of Manchester Young Greens) in their decision and admire their commitment to this crucial campaign. The threat of climate breakdown is imminent and requires urgent action.

We recognise that People & Planet UoM, in responding to The University of Manchester’s investment of almost £12m in fossil fuel companies, have reached the decision to occupy university premises after exhausting all other avenues of negotiation. We condemn the abhorrent actions of the University of Manchester, such as denying access to food and toilets. The University of Manchester has an obligation to uphold the values of the student body and respect their right to free expression. Furthermore, they have an obligation to respond to the global climate crisis, which will severely impact their students’ futures, and is already affecting millions in the global South.

78 universities across the UK & Ireland have committed to full divestment from fossil fuels, and we call on the University of Manchester to follow suit. We urge them to join Manchester Metropolitan University and the 13 Russell Group universities which have already made a commitment to divesting (10 committing to full divestment, 3 to partial divestment).

Manchester Green Party agrees that the action People & Planet UoM are taking is an appropriate response to the University of Manchester’s history of refusal to enter into meaningful discussions with the group and other student representatives. We agree that this occupation is fully in proportion to the lack of engagement from senior decision-makers at the University. We support the students in their campaign against the continued funding of fossil fuel industries in this era of climate breakdown, and we support their continued struggle for climate justice.”