University of Leeds students occupy lecture hall and refuse to leave as part of protest over fossil fuels
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Students took over the lecture theatre in the Esther Simpson Building – which is part of the business school – today (Monday) and said they will stay until three demands are met.
The demands from Student Rebellion centre around cutting all ties to fossil fuels, and are:
Update the University’s policy on responsible investment to include a ban on investments in oil, gas, coal and mining companies. Create and implement an “ethical careers policy” that commits to a ban on oil, gas, coal and mining companies from recruiting through the university, which includes attending careers fairs, and advertising recruitment opportunities or role vacancies. Refuse all funding from oil, gas, coal and mining companies.
The protest is part of an international movement called End Fossil: Occupy!, where students are occupying their schools to campaign to end the fossil economy.
The students say that they are using the lecture theatre as a space for learning about direct action, colonialism and climate justice.
Shelly, a third year student who is one of the occupiers, said: “The university talks about climate action but when it comes down to it, they aren’t doing enough and they aren’t doing it fast enough.”
Another occupant, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “In 2019, the UK government recognised that the climate crisis is an emergency, but our social institutions are not acting accordingly.
"I don’t want to be missing my university work to sit in a lecture theatre and disrupt other students, but I am so tired of hearing the people that run these institutions promising change and not doing anything about it. We need to act much faster.
"I am terrified about the future that the IPCC reports are predicting, so I feel a duty to take action.”
Student Rebellion says that cutting all ties with fossil fuels must be part of the university’s commitment to safeguard their students.
The activist group has written an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Simone Buitendijk, outlining their demands and inviting management to meet with them inside the theatre.
A spokesperson for the University of Leeds said: “The University of Leeds Climate Plan sets out the University’s targets, actions and investments to achieving net zero by 2030. The scope of the plan covers our teaching and research and operational activities, and our staff and student community have been involved in its development and have key roles in its implementation.
“In line with our Climate Plan, we are reorienting our research and teaching away from the fossil fuel sector. We continue to work with energy companies when the work aims to reduce carbon emissions or accelerate the transition to a low carbon future.
“Since 2019, our Climate Active investment strategy means we have had no investments in any company whose primary business is the extraction of fossil fuel, or which derives significant revenue from such extraction.”