Following up on Trinity College Dublin’s (TCD) announcement yesterday, TCD Fossil Free moved to lobby government for national fossil fuel divestment outside the Dáil today.
Today marked the last year of the campaign, but the group intend to push forward, from a college-wide campaign to a national divestment movement. The Irish government has over €72m invested in the fossil fuel industry via the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, which mainly comprises the state pension fund budget. Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Trocaire, An Taisce and Stop Climate Chaos have been lobbying for the government to divest from this and freeze any further investments in fossil fuels since 2015. They argue that it is not only unethical to sell public monies to controversial groups but also because these investments contravene Ireland’s commitments to prevent climate change under the recent Paris Climate Change Agreements. Moreover ‘divestment’ signifies a stance taken on an issue by an individual, institution or government. Last month Trinity’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) said in an Irish Times article that “Trinity wants to be a leader in sustainability, not only in investments, but in how it operates the campus.” Fossil Free TCD spokesperson, Deirdre Duff, concurred with this sentiment from the College Board today, saying that “by joining the international divestment movement Trinity is sending a message that the fossil fuel era is ending”.
Provost Patrick Prendergast officially announced Trinity’s move to sell its €6.1m investments in fossil fuel companies yesterday, which also includes the €87,000 invested in companies linked to the North Dakota Access Pipeline. Trinity is one of the first Irish universities to divest and now joins 677 institutions and 58,399 individuals who have pledged to divest from fossil fuels and promote renewable energy and climate solutions.
Celebrating the announcement TCD Fossil Free member Áine O’Gorman spoke in London at the Divest-Invest Initiative alongside these groups and public figures, including actor Mark Ruffalo and leading UK financier Helena Morrissey. This group announced a worldwide pledge to divest $5 trillion from fossil fuel stocks, to which Trinity has now added to. Áine O’Gorman spoke at the event explaining, “fossil fuel companies have spent vast sums of money funding climate change denial – in the face of clear scientific evidence to the contrary – and ensuring that the status quo around fossil fuel consumption is maintained.’’
Across yesterday and today’s events, TCD Fossil Free have received many messages of support on social media from students, individuals, and public figures such as Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan, who attended the protest today, sending “congratulations to @FossilFreeTCD getting @tcddublin to join the global Divestment campaign”. Also at the Dáil today was former TCDSU President Lynn Ruane who has been instrumental for the group during her tenancy as TCDSU President in 2015/16 and by raising the issue of national divestment in the Oireachtas through her current position as TCD Senator.
TCD Fossil Free had been protesting against the college board since October 2015 and was officially mandated by the TCD Student Union (TCDSU) earlier this year. This has been one of the quickest divestment projects completing in just over a year. Queen’s Belfast began their campaign in 2014, however, many roadblocks have prevented them from receiving information on college investments which have protracted their efforts. NUIG expects a decision back on their divestment campaign next February 2017.