Fossil Free TCD: Trinity must follow its strategic plan and divest

We want to show that students still have the power to have a positive influence on the pressing issues of our time

We write this piece in the hope that all readers understand the urgent need for immediate action regarding divestment from Trinity’s holdings in the fossil fuel industry.

Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, global leaders agreed that the maximum rise in global temperatures since the pre-industrial age could be 2 degrees celsius if we are to avoid the full impact of climate change.

If the fossil fuel industry is left to its own devices, we will exceed this maximum. For example, BP is predicting 80% of the world’s energy to be supplied by fossil fuels in 2035, which suggests efforts to restrict carbon emissions to tackle climate change are unlikely to meet their aim of limiting an average temperature rise to 2°C. Investing in companies who profit from the disregard of this necessity defies the spirit and ethos of an institution such as Trinity, whose duty is to shaping the future generations these companies denigrate.

In 2012, the Carbon Tracker Think Tank and the London School of Economics released research stating that, in order to stay below the 2°C limit, 80% of the current fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. Trinity thus faces a gross financial risk if policies are implemented that cause these assets to become stranded.

All over the world, students are leading the way in guiding their institutions to divestment from fossil fuels. In September 2014 $50 billion had been divested from fossil fuels. By December 2015, the figure stood at $3.4 trillion. This is the fastest growing grassroots campaign on earth, and it is time for Trinity to take its place on the right side of history. Prestigious universities all over the world are choosing to divest; from Stanford and Georgetown in the US, to Oxford and LSE in the UK. Every week more and more universities are seizing this opportunity and taking the brave decision to divest. Now it’s Trinity’s turn.

Fossil Free TCD want Trinity to also do its part. Before, Trinity has divested admirably from the apartheid in South Africa, an action which had its roots in a student-run campaign. We want to show that students still have the power to have a positive influence on the pressing issues of our time, and thus we implore Trinity to take seriously the promises made in the Provost’s Strategic Plan: “Trinity has a responsibility to conduct its activities in a manner that protects and enhances the environment, conserves natural resources, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and supports society as a whole.” This sets an urgent timetable for Trinity to disinvest its holdings in fossil fuel companies, if we are to support a clean energy future for all.

We are not alone. Academics such as Noam Chomsky, Bill McKibben, David McWilliams, Peter McVerry and Graciela Chichilnisky have all shown support for the TCD Fossil Free by signing our petition. Students of Trinity have also been a source of fantastic support. In the last week alone over 500 of them have signed our petition, which has meant that the total amount of signatures of support has risen to over a 1,000. We urge all others who agree to express their support by also signing our petition